As California faces a projected state budget shortfall in the tens of billions of dollars due to the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Newsom’s revised budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year includes significant reductions to programs and services that help keep Californians healthy. In particular, proposed cuts to Medi- Cal (California’s Medicaid program) could worsen health outcomes as well as undermine efforts to advance health equity at a time when the health and economic hardships from COVID-19 have disproportionately impacted Black and Latinx Californians, women and children in low-income households, and undocumented Californians.
Accessing health care, food assistance, transportation, and helping Californians pay for other basic necessities as they build job skills and find stable work — this is the role of health and human services. The Budget Center analyzes spending and related policies on health and human services, highlighting areas where greater public investment is critical as well as ways to boost access to connect people to these essential supports.
While all Californians are at risk from COVID-19, the effects of this disease will disproportionately impact communities that are underserved and have historically lacked access to comprehensive health coverage – namely communities of color and people who are undocumented. Continuing to exclude Californians who are undocumented from vital health coverage is harmful to the state’s collective health and perpetuates racial health disparities. State policymakers should enact more equitable policies that ensure all Californians have the opportunity to be healthy.
California’s public mental health system is a lifeline for children, youth, and adults who currently need – or one day will require – treatment for a mental health condition. However, this system is enormously complex. While many Californians with mental health needs manage to navigate this complex system, others fall through the cracks. Fortunately, efforts are underway at the state level to improve California’s behavioral health system.
Prisons and jails have been turned into “America’s…new mental hospitals,” even though it is clear that correctional facilities are highly inappropriate places to house and treat people with mental illness. In this fact sheet learn why California must continue to improve health care for people who are incarcerated and why reforms are also needed to address the connections between mental health and the criminal justice system so that Californians who need mental health treatment receive the appropriate care in a timely manner rather than being confined in state prisons or county jails.
As California works to improve access to behavioral health services (mental health and substance use), policymakers should keep in mind the various socioeconomic factors that can contribute to the development of mental health conditions for children, youth, and adults. Research suggests that low levels of household income and mental health conditions are related. In addition, experiencing racism and discrimination negatively impacts mental health for multiple racial/ethnic groups, especially for children and adolescents. Left unaddressed, chronic stress due to experiencing poverty and/or racism can affect a child’s development and can lead to behavioral problems.