Advocacy Alert: CCAPP-Sponsored Substance Use Disorder Workforce Bill Becomes Law
March 31, 2022
Landmark substance use disorder (SUD) legislation Assembly Bill 666 (Quirk-Silva) -- which provides educational stipends, certification fee waivers, test preparation funding and reimbursement opportunities to cross train the mental health workforce to better understand SUD clients -- was signed into statute by Governor Newson on March 9, 2022.
When fully funded, the bill could bring as much as $9 million in resources to build the SUD workforce, according to CCAPP President and CEO, Pete Nielsen.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment right when we need it the most," said Nielsen. "Our programs have struggled for years to recruit and retain staff amidst a national and statewide healthcare labor workforce shortage. The enactment of AB 666 takes direct aim at giving us breathing room until we can address larger, structural issues with our workforce."
Exacerbated by the circumstances of the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, California has witnessed record highs in overdose deaths. At the same time, the state's behavioral health workforce has reached record lows. In California, it is estimated that approximately 2.7 million people, meet the criteria for SUD diagnosis; yet there are less than 20,000 certified SUD counselors in the state. This creates a ratio of 135 potential clients to one SUD professional. Furthermore, the existing workforce is disproportionately distributed across the state and in many ways lacks the diversity to reflect the ethnic and linguistic needs of the population needing care.
AB 666 requires the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to evaluate the current state of the SUD workforce and determine the factors contributing to the workforce deficit. Along with this evaluation, it permits the Department of Health Care Access and Information to implement the broad workforce development program prescribed by the bill.
"CCAPP is proud to have co-sponsored this bill with the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies and we look forward to working together on the many future projects that our combined organizations are fostering," said Nielsen. "We are thankful for their dedication and tenacity on this issue area."
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