Update from the State Capitol
For many of us, this holiday season will be filled with fun and quality time with our friends, family and neighbors. Against the backdrop of festive decorations and fattening food, many of us will have a break from the hustle and bustle of the year to enjoy and reflect on the parts of life that matter most. However, not all of us will be so fortunate.
For those dealing with challenges in life, the holidays can be exceptionally difficult. Among the many hardships and losses some struggle with this season, I wanted to take some time to focus on one in particular that affects far more people than most of us realize: mental health.
According to a 2018 study by the California Health Care Foundation, one out of every six Californians experience some form of mental illness, while one in 24 struggle with a serious mental illness that significantly impacts their ability to carry out day-to-day activities.
Mental ailments such as depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and the spectrum of neurological disabilities are at times apparent but, more often than not, mental health disorders are masked from view. People who appear to be acting and feeling completely well can in fact be suffering from a serious, untreated mental health illness, unbeknownst to those around them.
Mental health is a complex topic, one healthcare professionals and policymakers have experienced countless challenges in addressing over the years. As a society, we have only recently started to move away from stigmas and misconceptions and towards understanding the full range of mental conditions, their expressions and effective treatments.
This progress comes however at a time when suicide rates are soaring. Center for Disease Control data shows that suicide rates in California increased over 52% since 2001, a statistic that shows the scale of the challenges we face, as well as the staggering human cost to California’s families.
Over the last few years, the state has been addressing mental health through a number of means ranging from the allocation of resources to creating new and more accessible treatment options. In the 2019-20 budget, we provided $50 million in one-time funds to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to help increase our mental healthcare workforce. We invested $30 million of tobacco tax funds to advance trauma treatment for children and adults through Medi-Cal. We also have made available $25 million in grants to encourage innovation in early psychosis prevention and treatment research, just to name a few.
Many of California’s counties have been at the forefront of the mental health fight. This is particularly true here at home in the County of Los Angeles, which has the largest county mental health department in the nation, contracting with about 1,000 providers who specialize in mental health services ranging from recovery services to wellness for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The reason I am outlining our progress and efforts is because I want you to know that help is available if you, or anyone you know, needs it.
In addition to the work of federal, state and local governments, there are countless nonprofits, religious institutions, and other organizations ready to provide information and resources to help anyone who is in need. These resources include California 211, a free information helpline that can connect people to a wide range of health and human services 24/7 simply by dialing 2-1-1 from any phone; and The National Alliance on Mental Illness – California, a nationwide advocacy group that can help connect individuals experiencing mental illness with resources (https://namica.org/). For a full list of mental health resources in California, please visit my Assembly website listed at the bottom of this piece.
So I am challenging all of us as we get ready for the holidays to remember that while we may be enjoying the magic of the season, there will be those around us who are struggling. From your loved ones to the person being difficult in the line at the grocery store, I think that all of us have the opportunity this season to extend our love, compassion and understanding to those we encounter in our daily lives. We have the opportunity to be the light in someone’s life, and to embody the real meaning of the Christmas season.
For a full list of mental health resources in California, you can go to https://a43.asmdc.org/mentalhealth.
As always, please reach out to me with any comments, questions, or concerns through my District Office at (818) 558-3043 or Assemblymember.Friedman@Assembly.ca.gov.