SB 999 (Cortese) Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Health Coverage – Support

March 18, 2024

The Honorable Dave Cortese
California State Senate
1021 O Street, Suite 6630
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Senate Bill 999 (Cortese) — Support

Dear Senator Cortese:

Mental Health America of California (MHAC) is a peer-run organization leading the state in behavioral health public policy and advocacy since 1957. The mission of MHAC is to assist and encourage communities, families and individuals to experience hope, wellness and recovery from mental health and substance use disorder issues through voluntary services that are delivered in their local community with compassion and respect for everyone’s dignity and autonomy. MHAC is pleased to support Senate Bill 999 (Cortese), legislation which would increase access to mental health and substance use disorder care.

SB 999 (Cortese) ensures utilization review determinations are made by a healthcare provider practicing in the relevant clinical specialty with the same level of education and experience as the health care provider requesting the authorization. By ensuring that individuals making the utilization review determination have relevant experience and knowledge as a provider, a more informed decision can be made about the necessity of the request, which can lead to more individuals receiving the care they want and need.

Additionally, this bill requires health plans or insurers to provide direct access and communication between health plans or insurers and health care providers. Increasing access to direct communication reduces the time it takes to conduct a utilization review and increases the delivery of care in a timely manner.  

Furthermore, the legislation guarantees certain rights to healthcare providers and health plan enrollees such as the name and credentials of the individual or health care provider performing utilization review, the basis for a denial including citations to the clinical guidelines reviewed, and an analysis of why the health plan enrollee did not meet the clinical criteria. Should a utilization review result in denial, a health plan enrollee can appeal using the provided information, empowering individuals to self-advocate for their care.  

For these reasons, we support Senate Bill 999 (Cortese). If you or your staff have any questions, or if Mental Health America of California can be of any assistance on this or any other behavioral health bill, please do not hesitate to contact me at, or our Director of Public Policy, Karen Vicari at

In Community,

Heidi Strunk
President & CEO
Mental Health America of California