(February 2012)-The Governor’s January budget proposal is out, and it is a mixed bag for our fields.
• All of the one-time reductions in the CDCR budget for rehabilitation are being restored for 2012/13, but the 109 realignment has resulted in low utilization which may require budget reductions.
• The Department of Mental Health is not mentioned in the budget. There is no funding reduction, but the responsibilities of DMH have been moved to six other departments.
• The Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs appears as a zero-dollar budget. All funding and positions are being transferred to three other state agencies.
• CalWORKs funding has been restored, but treatment time no longer counts as work credit, which may impact our clients. (See changes to Department of Alcohol and Drug and CalWORKs funding detailed in Department of Health and Human Services budget summary.)
In other areas, the Department of Health Care Services, which absorbed the majority of DMH and DADP functions and funding, is still looking for a Deputy Director for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder services. This is a critical position for moving forward with integrating behavioral health with primary health.
The California Health Benefit Exchange is starting the process of defining the California Essential Health Benefit package. This will become the minimum that must be provided by all insurance plans, including Medi-Cal, and will explicitly comply with the 2008 Federal Parity law. This will take effect on January 1, 2014.
Recent court cases have led the California Department of Insurance to now deem that the California Mental Health Parity law requires that all medically necessary mental health services must be covered by private insurance plans.
Finally, AB 154 (Jim Beall) establishes full parity in California for both mental health and substance use disorders. It is likely to pass the Assembly next week and is expected to pass the Senate. What is different this year is that the Governor has said that he would sign it.
Other people may be there to help us, teach us, guide us along our path, but the lesson to be learned is always ours.