Assemblywoman’s mental health access bill moves forward

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, District 38 speaks to the crowd after being sworn in at Oak Hills Elementary School in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, celebrated the advancement of Assembly Bill 769 to the Appropriations Committee this week.

“I am proud to author AB 769, which properly recognizes (licensed professional clinical counselors) for the incredible work they do for our communities,” Smith said in a news release. “I’m hopeful this bill will create avenues for Californians to prioritize mental health.”

The bill seeks to eliminate the hiring disincentive among federally qualified and rural health centers by allowing a Medi-Cal reimbursement for covered mental health services that the counselors provide, the release states. “As a result, AB 769 would also expand access to mental health services.”

Under existing law, there is inequity among mental health providers because psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists are all eligible to be reimbursed for the services they provide, Smith said in the release. However, licensed clinical counselors, who are parallel, fully qualified and trained mental health professionals who offer important services to health centers, are left out of the Medi-Cal reimbursement mechanism.

“There is so much we need to do to ensure folks in our community struggling with mental health issues are afforded the resources and services they need,” Smith said. “This bill would address the gaps in our health-care workforce and support people throughout California, especially in rural and remote areas.”

There is no registered opposition on file, and the bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a vote.

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