SB 221 signing makes the news

October 21st, 2021

NUHW’s groundbreaking mental health access bill, SB 221 is being hailed as one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed into law this month by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Authored by State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, the law, which goes into effect July 1, 2022, will require health insurers to offer follow-up mental health and substance use treatment appointments to patients within two weeks of their initial assessment, unless the treating mental health clinician determines that a longer wait would not be detrimental.

At Kaiser Permanente, the state’s largest HMO with more than 9 million members, many patients are forced to wait two months between appointments.

In a KQED story about the session’s most “headline-grabbing” bills, State Sen. Wiener said patients face “obscene delays” for follow-up mental health care. The story also referenced a NUHW survey that found that 87 percent of Kaiser Permanente therapists reported that “weekly appointments were not available to patients who needed them.”

In its round-up of major bills, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Wiener calling SB 221’s passage into law, “a victory for the movement to ensure mental health is treated as important as physical health.”

SB 221 passed 76-0 in the Assembly and 35-1 in the State Senate.

NUHW members who provide behavioral health care at Kaiser Permanente and helped advocate for the bill are now working to make sure that the law will be adequately enforced and that their contracts will include provisions to ensure that Kaiser has enough clinicians to provide timely follow-up care.