New California Bill Reduces Mental Healthcare Wait Times

BY: Koszdin | Thursday, October 14, 2021.

Over recent days, a new bill has been officially signed into law by California lawmakers impacting the status of mental healthcare in the state. Senate Bill 221 is legislation ensuring that mental health patients will see their therapists on a more regular basis. Despite the apparent positive impact on California workers, some insurers and organizations are pushing back. Koszdin, Fields & Sherry are Van Nuys mental health claim attorneys here to provide you with all of the up-to-date information you need to know on your rights as a worker in the state of California.

Senate Bill 221 and Its Impact on Workers in California

Senate Bill 221 is a bill that was recently passed in both the California House and Senate, later being signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom (D). The bill addressed the long wait times between mental health appointments and therapeutic sessions for insured workers in the state of California. The new bill requires all mental health insurers to provide follow-up appointments within ten business days of the previous one. This change came as the result of a loophole in the healthcare system that only required that the initial therapy appointment be provided within the first 10 business days of enrolling, leaving all follow-up appointments vulnerable to long wait times.

The California Health Care Foundation found that 52% of those attempting to schedule mental health appointments felt that the wait times for care were extraordinarily long. This came in addition to the recent decline in the status of mental health amongst the general population due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, anxiety and depression rates are said to have tripled nationwide. In addition, a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that one in four adults under the age of 24 had “seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days”. The effects of mental health strain have been apparent on the general working population of California.

Greta Christina is one of these individuals. Christina fell into a depressive state nearly five years ago, seeking therapy from a previous therapist she had years before. By chance, the therapist worked for Kaiser Permanente, Christina’s insurer. Despite being in-system, Christina routinely was made to wait weeks for an appointment, sometimes five to six just for the chance to speak with her therapist for around an hour.

At Kaiser Permanente, 87% of therapists stated that weekly appointments were not available to those who needed them. Brandi Plumley, a triage therapist at a Kaiser mental health clinic in Vallejo, finds the current situation “unethical” as the average patient sees a wait time of nearly two months.

While Plumley believes Kaiser must hire more mental health professionals, the company’s response to the issue is that there are simply not enough clinicians out there. According to Kaiser’s Northern California vice president of behavioral health, there are currently over 300 open clinical positions throughout the integrated health system. The VP goes on to state that even filling these positions will not be enough, and that California must “reimagine [its] approach to the existing national model of care.” Kaiser Permanente and the California Association of Health Plans (CAHP) both oppose the bill.

Contact a Van Nuys Mental Health Attorney Today

Koszdin, Fields & Sherry is a law firm operating out of the Van Nuys/Los Angeles area of southern California. Our firm is dedicated to justice and fairness in the workplace, providing helpful information that educates the general public of their rights on the job. By contacting a Van Nuys mental health claims attorney, you will be taking your first step toward a healthy and more stable future in which will not have to worry about breaking the bank. Call 818-812-5639 or contact us here today for a free consultation.

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