Governor Newsom Signs Assemblymember Irwin’s Bill Making Mental Health Treatment More Accessible for Californians
SACRAMENTO – Assembly Bill 3242 authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D – Thousand Oaks), was signed into law on Friday, September 25, 2020. This bill will allow 5150 and 5151 involuntary hold assessments, as required by the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, to now be conducted using telehealth.
“I’m proud to have partnered with NAMI California and the California Hospital Association to make mental health treatment more accessible for Californians, especially during a pandemic when there is significant strain on the behavioral health system,” said Assemblymember Irwin. “AB 3242 will drastically reduce wait times for patients and eliminate travel time for county designated evaluators.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to keep emergency departments cleared of individuals who do not need to be there. Currently, individuals can be held for up to 72 hours for assessment, crisis intervention or placement in a designated treatment facility. A county-designated professional must assess the person to determine if admission to a facility for further treatment is appropriate.
Hospital emergency departments are often the only option for people experiencing an acute behavioral health episode. In 2018, emergency departments in all 58 counties saw 6,600 people per day with a behavioral health diagnosis. Wait times for an in-person 5150 and 5151 assessment place an incredible strain on the behavioral health system and take up much-needed beds. Adding to the limited number of county designated professionals who must conduct assessments and travel to various facilities.
"NAMI California applauds the governor for signing Assembly Bill 3242 into law. As California’s voice for people living with serious mental illnesses and their families, we fight for better behavioral health services and we are certain this law will improve care for those who need it most. Across the state, the need for mental health care is increasing in the midst of the pandemic, especially for communities of color — and access to care must increase to match it. Our members have shared harrowing stories of waiting in emergency rooms for hours, if not days, to receive a psychiatric assessment. Assembly Bill 3242, which we cosponsored with the California Hospital Association, would make mental health assessments — and, as a result, treatment — quicker and more accessible. That means patients in need of emergency mental health care, as well as their family members, won’t have to face unreasonably long wait times in the ED."
"On behalf of those we care for, California hospitals applaud Governor Newsom for signing into law a bill that will make urgent mental health treatment more accessible to those in need,” said Carmela Coyle, President & CEO of the California Hospital Association. “This legislation, advanced in partnership with NAMI California and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, allows the use of telehealth to improve response times to emergency department requests for mental health evaluations. That means people in need will be able to get the right care more quickly, an invaluable tool as California’s health care providers work together to meet the growing needs of people with behavioral health conditions.”
Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin represents California’s 44th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Camarillo, Moorpark, Oak Park, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, ,Thousand Oaks, and Westlake Village.