NUHW addresses State Legislature’s Mental Health Caucus

March 29th, 2021

NUHW President Sal Rosselli was invited to address the March 24 online meeting of the State Legislature’s Mental Health Caucus. It was the caucus’ first meeting in over a year, and about two dozen legislators from both parties were represented.

Rosselli’s comments focused on the full slate of actions necessary to help grow the behavioral health workforce to better serve all Californians.

  • Providing the tuition and student loan debt relief, the improvements in compensation and working conditions, and the recruitment and retention incentives necessary to address the chronic, extreme shortages of mental health and substance use disorder specialists serving non-English speaking immigrants and specific regions of the state, including the Inland Empire, the Central Valley, other rural areas and low-income urban communities.
  • Establishing a rigorous, ongoing, state-driven data collection program that will help us better understand the different dimensions of the behavioral health workforce shortage, make informed policy decisions, and design workforce development programs that meet needs for the full range of frontline therapists, not just positions that can write prescriptions.
  • Recognizing that the failure of insurers to reimburse behavioral health care on par with physical health care contributes to the shortfall in qualified behavioral health professionals, and working with us to increase the power of behavioral health clinicians to level the playing field.

Rosselli also thanked the legislators for their leadership in passing last year’s landmark mental health parity bill, SB 855, and for their support of this year’s NUHW-sponsored SB 221, which would require health plans to offer patients follow-up behavioral health care appointments within 10 business days.

The legislators asked good questions following the presentation and expressed the understanding that — with demand for care increasing rapidly — the state must do more to better understand and address the workforce shortages in behavioral health.