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Dr. Bains’ plan to expand access to addiction treatment clears major hurdles

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA (Apr. 17, 2024) – Access to addiction treatment could significantly improve in California as two bills authored by Dr. Jasmeet Bains (D-Delano) approved by separate Assembly committees Tuesday. 

“The system might work for those with money, but for everyone else, addiction treatment can be nearly impossible to access outside of the emergency room,” said Dr. Bains. “Even our hospitals have to cut through bureaucratic red tape to offer these critical services. It is time to treat addiction like the crisis that it is and ensure treatment is available for all Californians.”

AB 2651, which cleared the Assembly Business & Professions Committee with bipartisan support, will create a license for Alcohol Drug Counselors to ensure they meet minimum education requirements and protect consumers from receiving care from underqualified counselors. This professional license will also ensure patients can use their medical insurance to see a counselor. Current law generally requires patients to pay for counseling services out of pocket.

In a letter of support for AB 2651, the Steinberg Institute wrote, “Recent policy advancements, including CARE courts, crisis stabilization units, collocated behavioral health services at schools, and most recently, the expansion of SUD (Substance Use Disorder) services under Proposition 1, must be supported by an expansion in the workforce. That can only occur with a comprehensive and recognized career ladder for SUD professionals.”

The Assembly Committee on Health passed AB 2376, also with bipartisan support. The bill streamlines regulatory requirements, enabling additional healthcare facilities to accept more patients for addiction and substance use disorder treatments. Current law restricts the types of facilities that can offer care, including a requirement to segregate substance abuse disorder patients despite posing no risk of contagion.

“Together, these bills will increase access to addiction treatment at every level,” continued Dr. Bains. “We are creating more options for people to get care for this condition before it becomes severe while also opening up more treatment slots in our hospitals.” 

With 5.3 million Californians struggling with a substance use disorder, addiction continues to be an extremely challenging public health crisis. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, since 2015, drug overdose deaths in California have increased from just over 4,500 in a year to a shocking 11,774 reported overdose deaths in 2023.

A policy brief from health policy consultant California Health Policy Strategies (CHPS) found that overdoses disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, and only 10% of Californians with an addiction receive treatment. Since 2017, deaths have risen among teenagers (15 to 19) by 370% and Black and Latinx Californians by 200%. 

“We are struggling to win the battle to save lives from overdose in California due to gaps in our treatment system, and Dr. Bains is leading the effort to expand access and quality in the most impactful ways,” said Pete Nielsen, the CEO of the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals which is sponsoring AB 2651. 

“By giving people an option to see a practitioner in their community without leaving work for 30 days to get care, Dr. Bains is giving families and working people an opportunity to pursue treatment for addiction in ways that reduce costs and keep families intact; we thank her for her leadership,” said Nielsen.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee will next consider both bills.

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