SB 326 (EGGMAN) Behavioral Health Services Act – Proposed Amendments

July 13, 2023

Submitted via Web Portal and E-mail

Assembly Member Jim Wood, Chair
Assembly Health Committee
1020 N Street, Room 390
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: SB 326 (Eggman) Proposed Amendments

Dear Assembly Member Wood:

The California Youth Empowerment Network requests the following amendment detailed below to SB 326, the Behavioral Health Services Act (BHSA). The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is a youth-led statewide network comprised of TAY Action Teams and CAYEN Board members which engages, empowers and represents Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 15-26, in mental health advocacy on issues that directly affect TAY. Since CAYEN’s inception in 2006, CAYEN has taken many forms of action to empower TAY in their personal lives and spark progressive change in public policy.

We have included in our submission a separate, red-lined markup of the Word Document for Amendments including the requested amendment. Justification for the requested amendment is as follows:

Page 66. Amend Section 5845 to include two Transition Age Youth (TAY) aged 16-26 at the time of appointment on the Behavioral Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission

5848. (a) The Behavioral Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission is hereby established to administer grants, identify key policy issues and emerging best practices, and promote high-quality programs implemented pursuant to Section 5892 through the examination of data and outcomes.

(b) (1) The commission shall replace the advisory committee established pursuant to Section 5814.

(2) The commission shall consist of 22 voting members as follows:

(A) The Attorney General or the Attorney General’s designee.

(B) The Superintendent of Public Instruction or the Superintendent’s designee.

(C) The Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Human Services, or another member of the Senate selected by the President pro Tempore of the Senate. Page 2 of 2

(D) The Chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Health or another Member of the Assembly selected by the Speaker of the Assembly.

(E) A county behavioral health director.

(F) (i) The following individuals, all appointed by the Governor:

(I) One adult or older adult who has or who has had a serious mental illness.

(II) One adult or older adult who has or who has had a substance use disorder.

(III) Two Transition Age Youth ages 16-26 at the time of appointment to the Commission.

(IV) A family member of an adult or older adult with a serious mental illness.

Justification: The voices of our TAY with lived experience are essential to the BHSOAC. Additionally, family members should never outnumber people with lived experience on boards or commissions. TAY with lived experience possess unique and vital knowledge that is separate and distinct from the knowledge possessed by family members.

Currently, SB 326 includes 4 family members and 2 individuals with lived experience. CAYEN recommends that there be two additional people with lived experience on the BHSOAC, and these members should be Transition Age Youth (TAY). Half of the family representation in SB 326 is parents of children and youth. This is because the needs and experiences of children and youth with behavioral health challenges are very different than the needs and experiences of adults. When parents are represented, TAY should be equally represented to complement the family perspectives. Youth and young adults on commissions are often subject to tokenism. To avoid tokenism, it is essential that at least two TAY serve on the BHSOAC to provide support and encourage dialogue.

CAYEN is grateful for the opportunity to offer the suggested amendment to SB 326 to strengthen TAY representation within the BHSA. If you or your staff have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at dthirakul@mhac.org, or our Interim Director of Public Policy, Karen Vicari at kvicari@mhacofca.org.

In Community,

Danny Thirakul
Public Policy Coordinator
California Youth Empowerment Network

SB 997(Portantino) Pupil Health: opioid antagonists and fentanyl test strips – Support

March 15, 2024 

The Honorable Josh Newman
Chair, Senate Committee on Education 
California State Senate
1021 O Street, Room 6740
Sacramento, CA  95814 

Re: Support for Senate Bill 997 (Portantino) 

Dear Senator Newman,

The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is pleased to support SB 997 (Portantino), legislation which would permit middle school and high school students to carry federally approved opioid antagonist medicines, such as Narcan, while they are on campus. Additionally, SB 997 requires middle schools and high schools to stock fentanyl testing strips and notify students of their location.

CAYEN is a youth-led statewide network comprised of TAY Action Teams and CAYEN Board members which engages, empowers, and represents Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 15-26, in mental health advocacy on issues that directly affect TAY. Since CAYEN’s inception in 2006, CAYEN has taken many forms of action to empower TAY in their personal lives and spark progressive change in public policy.  We support the implementation of harm reduction policies that will reduce the use and effects of substance use. SB 997 calls for the implementation of measures to deter the rising rate of opioid related deaths among middle school and high school students. If students are engaging in drugs, the focus is to ensure safe use that avoids potential death from substance use.

Fentanyl, an opioid that proves to be up to 50 times more intense than Heroin, is one of the overarching drugs driving the rate of drug related overdoses in California and the United States.1 When laced, Fentanyl is undetectable unless a fentanyl test strip is utilized. In the case of an opioid overdose, Naloxone, which is available to purchase over the counter, can help counteract its effects. As reported by the California Department of Public Health, the state of California carries a total of 7,000 opioid related deaths, with Fentanyl being the culprit of 88% of the deaths.2 LA County reported the highest rates of Fentanyl overdose deaths in impoverished communities.3

Senate Bill 997 would allow middle school and high schools to adopt policy guidelines that allow students to carry opioid reversal medication. Additionally, it requires public schools to provide and communicate the access of Fentanyl testing strips. For these reasons we support SB 997 (Portantino) and request your “Aye” vote. If you have any questions, or if CAYEN can provide assistance on this bill or any other behavioral health legislation, please do not hesitate to contact me at dthirakul@mhac.org. 

Sincerely,  

Danny Thirakul 

Public Policy Coordinator

SB 274 (SKINNER) Suspensions and Expulsions: Willful Defiance, Interventions and Support – Support

The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor of California
California State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, California 95814

RE: Senate Bill 274 (Skinner), Suspensions and Expulsions: Willful Defiance, Interventions and Support– Request for Signature

Dear Governor Newsom:

On behalf of the California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN), I am writing in strong support of Senate Bill (SB) 274, which seeks to improve student success rates, create a more supportive academic environment, eliminate suspensions and expulsions for tardiness, truancy, or students otherwise absent, and encourage schools to consider alternatives to suspensions and expulsions by extending the “willful defiance” sunset for students (grades 6- 8th) and extending the prohibition of those suspensions to students (8-12th) through 2029. SB 274 aims to keep California students in schools while protecting the most vulnerable student populations from harmful and discriminatory school climates.

CAYEN is a youth-led statewide network comprised of TAY Action Teams and CAYEN Board members which engages, empowers and represents Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 15- 26, in mental health advocacy on issues that directly affect TAY. Since CAYEN’s inception in 2006, CAYEN has taken many forms of action to empower TAY in their personal lives and spark progressive change in public policy. One area of interest is how we support and engage youth with mental and behavioral health needs in learning institutions.

“Willful defiance” is broadly defined as defying the authority of school staff. Some examples of “defiance” include wearing a hat, not having a belt, or falling asleep in class. Defiance suspensions contribute to racial inequality in schools and are detrimental to the academic and personal development of our transitional age youth.

Students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students are disproportionately suspended for low-level subjective behavioral disruptions, classified as “willful defiance”. These suspensions cause students to lose significant instruction time. Data made available by the California Department of Education shows Black students are suspended 3 times more than White students for defiance. Black and Latino boys in special education are 6% of students in California, yet they account for 16% of defiance suspensions across the State.

The simple act of ending willful defiance suspensions for all public-school children recognizes the unique developmental vulnerabilities of youth, especially youth of color and youth with disabilities, by creating a school environment where every child can learn, thrive, and succeed. Our education system is meant to challenge our youth to think critically, independently, and seek truth. To suspend our youth for willful defiance such as “talking back” does not provide learning opportunities. In fact, research demonstrates that suspending students for any reason increases the likelihood that the student will have future involvement with the justice system. Research also shows that positive behavior intervention, support models, and restorative justice are more effective than suspension at managing behavioral expression.

For these reasons, we respectfully request your signature for SB 274. If you or your staff have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at dthirakul@mhac.org, or Mental Health America of California’s Interim Director of Public Policy, Karen Vicari at kvicari@mhacofca.org.

In Community,
Danny Thirakul
Public Policy Coordinator
California Youth Empowerment Network

SB 641 (ROTH) The Naloxone Distributuin Project – Support

September 29, 2023

Governor Gavin Newsom
1021 O Street, Suite 9000
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Support SB 641 (Roth)

Dear Governor Newsom,

As organizations and individuals working on the frontlines of California’s opioid crisis, we are writing to request you sign Senate Bill 641 (Roth) into law to save lives by expanding the availability of overdose reversal medications through California’s Naloxone Distribution Project (NDP).

As you are aware, opioid-related deaths in California have skyrocketed in the past several years. Between 2019 and 2021 overdose deaths increased by 121%. Nearly 6,000 Californians succumbed to synthetic opioid overdose between 2019 and 2022. The weight of this loss on families and loved ones throughout the state is incalculable.

While state and federal law enforcement agencies work diligently to stop the flow of opioids across our borders and through our streets, newer, more deadly types of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are driving unprecedented overdose deaths. In addition, synthetic opioids are being mixed with recreational drugs like cannabis, cocaine, and other stimulants, placing a larger population unknowingly at risk than in the past.

While statewide distribution of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone through NDP has reversed nearly 182,000 opioid overdoses in California since the program’s inception in 2018, it’s time for the project to be updated to include access to newer opioid reversal medication formulations that can address the ever-changing nature of the opioid epidemic in communities throughout California.

SB 641 will allow newer FDA-approved overdose reversal medications that can address overdose from the broader, more complex range of synthetic opioids we are seeing to be added to the NDP. Passage of this critical legislation will give first responders and community organizations the additional tools they need to effectively fight opioid-related deaths in their communities. For these reasons, we strongly urge your signature for SB 641.

Sincerely,

Gretchen Bergman
Co-Founder & Executive Director
A New PATH

Robb Layne
Executive Director
California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives

Sherry Daley Government Affairs & Corporate Communications Director California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals

Le Ondra Clark Harvey
Chief Executive Officer
California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies
Executive Director California Access Coalition

Cory M. Salzillo
Legislative Director
California State Sheriffs’ Association

Teri Holoman
Associate Executive Director
California Teachers Association

Danny Thirakul
Public Policy Coordinator
California Youth Empowerment Network

Carl Baker
Director of Legal & Legislative Affairs
DAP Health

Deacon Jim Vargas
CEO
Father Joe’s Village

Henry N. Tuttle
President & CEO
Health Center Partners of Southern California

Jeanne McAlister
Chief Executive Officer
McAlister Institute

Heidi Strunk
President & CEO
Mental Health America of California

Scott Suckow
Chairman
Patient Advocates United in San Diego County

SB 680 (SKINNER) Social Media Safety for Youth – Support

June 20, 2023

Senator Nancy Skinner
California State Senate
021 O Street, Suite 8630
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Support for Senate Bill 680 (Skinner)

Dear Senator Skinner,

The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is pleased to support your bill, SB 680, which would prohibit social media platforms to knowingly or carelessly cause children to inflict harm on themselves or others, develop an eating disorder, or experience addiction to their platforms. In addition, the bill would fine platforms accordingly for failure to comply or for harm caused.

The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is a youth-led statewide network comprised of TAY Action Teams and CAYEN Board members which engages, empowers and represents Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 15-26, in mental health advocacy on issues that directly affect TAY. Since CAYEN’s inception in 2006, CAYEN has taken many forms of action to empower TAY in their personal lives and spark progressive change in public policy. The increasing use and impact of social media platforms have made this bill a priority for our youth.

We oppose the dangerous algorithms of social media platforms that direct users, including children and youth, to harmful content. Youth’s accessibility to weapons, substances, and other dangerous content via social media platforms has proven to be life threatening. Senate Bill 680 takes a bold step to hold social media platforms accountable for their part in intermediating illegal activity and life-threatening youth trends.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that children in the U.S. ages eight to 10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen; kids ages 11 to 14 spend an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen; and youth ages 15 to 18 spend an average of seven-and-ahalf hours per day in front of a screen, with much of that time viewing social media content. Research has revealed that the intentional design of these social media platforms –design that uses artificial intelligence to maximize “user engagement” — causes addiction to the platform, particularly for children.

This bill prohibits a social media platform from causing child users to:

  • Inflict harm on themselves or others;
  • Develop an eating disorder;
  • Experience addiction to the social media platform.

Harm is defined in this bill as physical, mental, or emotional as indeed, we know that children have suffered a variety of harms from social media platforms’ designs, algorithms, and features. This bill limits enforcement to public prosecutors and offers a “safe harbor” from all liability to any platform that audits its practices quarterly and voluntarily ceases those that cause the harms listed above.

For these reasons, we support Senate Bill 680. If you or your staff have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at dthirakul@mhac.org, or our Interim Director of Public Policy, Karen Vicari at kvicari@mhacofca.org.

In Community,

Danny Thirakul
Public Policy Coordinator
California Youth Empowerment Network

AB 275 (WARD) Pupil Compensation – Support

June 7, 2023

The Honorable Christopher M. Ward
California State Assembly
1021 O St., Suite 8320
acramento, CA 95814

RE: Assembly Bill 275

Dear Assembly Member Ward:

The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is pleased to support Assembly Bill 275 (Ward), which will allow school district boards and county boards of education to provide compensation to student members by offering a stipend for their work.

The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is a youth-led statewide network comprised of TAY Action Teams and CAYEN Board members which engages, empowers and represents Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 15-26, in mental health advocacy on issues that directly affect TAY. Since CAYEN’s inception in 2006, CAYEN has taken many forms of action to empower TAY in their personal lives and spark progressive change in public policy.

As an organization that is run for TAY by TAY, we know that representation matters, specifically youth representation. As a society we elect members of our community to represent us in government and we compensate them for their time. Student members have a constituency and unique knowledge and are chosen to advocate and inform on decisions regarding the youth perspective. This requires time, outreach, and research. Board members are compensated for the work they do within the scope of their position. Our youth should be equally compensated for the same work.

For these reasons, we support Assembly Bill 275. If you or your staff have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at dthirakul@mhac.org, or our Interim Director of Public Policy, Karen Vicari at kvicari@mhacofca.org.

In Community,

Danny Thirakul
Public Policy Coordinator
California Youth Empowerment Network

Coalition Letter Re: 2023-24 State Budget Proposal

June 1, 2023

The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor, State of California
1315 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Toni Atkins
Senate President Pro Tem
1021 O Street, Suite 8518
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Anthony Rendon
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol, Room 219
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: 2023-24 State Budget Proposal

Dear Governor Newsom, Pro Tem Atkins, and Speaker Rendon:

As members of the Skills for CA Network, we respectfully urge you to protect key investments in workforce development, education, and social safety net as you consider pending budget priorities. Skills for CA is a statewide network of organizations advancing workforce development policies that remove systemic barriers and promote an inclusive economy for all Californians.

Despite this year’s budget shortfall, we thank Governor Newsom for largely maintaining historic investments made in previous years, such as funding to support community colleges, returning students, and advance career technical education and workforce training programs intended to provide economic mobility for underserved Californians. However, there are various budget proposals still pending that seek to advance economic mobility in California’s most underserved communities.

The Skills for CA Network urges the Administration and the Legislature to reject funding reductions and delays to workforce development and social safety net programs that aim to provide economic opportunity to underserved communities – many of whom continue to face employment barriers, struggle to pay rent, put food on the table, pay for child care, and cover healthcare costs.

Based on our vision to remove systemic barriers and promote an inclusive economy for all Californians, we respectfully urge you to protect investments and support the following budget items related to education, training, workforce development, and social safety net.

Protect Higher Education Investments for Returning Students & Opportunity Youth

  • Support Community College Investments. The May Revision proposes an increase of $25.4 million in ongoing investment to reflect a change in the cost-of-living adjustment from 8.13% to 8.22%, in addition to the same COLA increase for select categorical programs and the Adult Education Program. We urge our state leaders to maintain these investments.
  • Support Cradle to Career Data System Investments. The May Revision maintains funding to support the Office of the Cradle-to-Career (C2C) Data System, adding 10 new positions, reclassification of four existing positions, and $4.9 million General Fund in fiscal year 2023-24 and ongoing to fund and manage the data system’s capacity efforts. The data system will provide tools to help students reach their career goals & provide critical information on education and workforce outcomes. We urge our state leaders to continue investments in the data system.
  • Invest in Student Financial Aid Access – Cal Grant Reform 2024. We appreciate the acknowledgment by the Administration to continue its commitment to implement Cal Grant Reform in 2024, depending on future state revenues. California has made some strides in removing Cal Grant access barriers, such as removing the time-out-of-high school and age eligibility requirements. However, as budget negotiations continue that could impact next year’s fiscal outlook, we urge our state leaders to prioritize key investments for Cal Grant Reform implementation.

Protect Social Safety Net Programs for Working Families

  • Invest in Food for All. We thank the Governor for maintaining the commitment to expand the CA Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for undocumented immigrants 55 years or older and providing access to food benefits sooner than anticipated – from January 2027 to now October 2025. However, undocumented immigrants 54 and under continue to experience food insecurity and without access to CFAP. We urge our state leaders to invest in food access for all Californians regardless of age and immigration status.
  • Invest in a Social Safety Net for Undocumented Workers. The May Revision does not include funding to support the legislature’s proposal to create the Excluded Workers Program, which would provide workers who are ineligible for unemployment insurance due to their immigration status with $300 per week for up to 20 weeks – continuing to hinder the lives of working immigrants who continue to be left out of our state’s prosperity. We urge our state leaders to invest in strategies that will truly advance a California for All.
  • Expand Child Care Access. We thank the Governor for investing $6.6 billion to support child care programs, including waiving family fees until September 30, 2023, an 8.22% COLA increase, and $169.2 million in federal funding to provide temporary stipends to state-subsidized child care providers. However, the May Revision does not include increase child care provider rates for 2023-24. Providers are struggling to afford basic needs because their rates have not kept pace with minimum wage. We urge our state leaders to invest in both childcare access and the workforce.

Protect Workforce Development Programs That Support CA’s Economy

  • Reject Trigger Cuts to the CA Youth Leadership Corps (CYLC). The budget proposes to cut $20 million from the $60 million that was promised in last year’s budget. If there are sufficient resources, funding will be restored in 2024. The CYLC program would expand earn-and-learn pathways for community college students to prepare youth paid low incomes – including youth of color, opportunity youth, and immigrant youth – for community change careers in public/community health, clean energy planning/development, leadership, and social change. CYLC works to offer courses that lead to postsecondary credentials, student supports, mentoring, and paid internships. We urge our state leaders to reject this trigger cut and ensure dollars are restored to this critical program for underserved youth who continue to face barriers to workforce opportunities.
  • Maintain Investments in the Youth Jobs Corps Program. The budget proposes $78 million to permanently fund the Youth Jobs Corps, a program to create and expand youth employment opportunities that provide valuable job skills, public service career pathways, and help youth engage with their communities, including providing pathways to undocumented youth with work authorization. We urge our state leaders to maintain this investment in the final budget.
  • Reject Trigger Cuts to the Apprenticeship Innovation Fund. The budget proposes to cut $40 million to the $175 million commitment to the Apprenticeship Innovation Fund. The apprenticeship fund would expand non-traditional apprenticeships in the state. We urge our state leaders to reject this trigger cut to secure more earn and learn opportunities for underserved Californians and bolster the state’s workforce.
  • Maintain the Women in Construction Unit. The May Revision restores $15 million in 2023-24 and $15 million in 2024-25 for the Department of Industrial Relation’s Women in Construction Priority Unit – intended to support women and nonbinary individuals in the skilled trades sector. We urge our state leaders to keep this investment in the final budget.
  • Invest in Breaking Barriers to Employment Grants. Although we are grateful for past investments in the Breaking Barriers to Employment program, Californians need ongoing support to access training programs that lead them to family-sustaining jobs. The Breaking Barriers to Employment program provides individuals from underserved communities supplemental, supportive, and wraparound services they need to successfully enter, participate in, and complete workforce and education programs, with the goal of obtaining meaningful and family-sustaining jobs. We urge our state leaders to invest $30 million in the program to continue serving individuals with significant barriers to employment.

As budget discussions continue in the coming weeks, California must remain a leader in centering equity and economic mobility for all Californians. We look forward to working with the Administration, Legislature, and partners to advance our shared goal of removing systemic barriers and building an inclusive economy for all Californians.

For any questions, please contact Anna Alvarado at aalvarado@caedge.org.

Sincerely,

California Opportunity Youth Network
Sean Hughes
Policy Director

California Youth Empowerment Network
Danny Thirakul
Public Policy Coordinator

Alliance for Boys and Men of Color
(ABMoC)

Eric Morrison-Smith
Executive Director

Mental Health America of California
Heidi Strunk
President & CEO

Building Skills Partnership
Sylvia Romo
Director of Systems Change and Worker Voice

National Skills Coalition
Karina Paredes-Arzola
State Network Manager

UNITE-LA
Alysia Bell
President

California Immigrant Policy Center
Edgar Ortiz
Economic Justice Policy Analyst

Tipping Point Community
Talia Nagar
Senior Program Officer

CA EDGE Coalition
Zima Creason
Executive Director

AB 957 (WILSON) The TGI (Transgender, Gender-Diverse, Intersex) Empowerment Act – Support

May 31, 2023

The Honorable Lori D. Wilson
State Assembly
1021 O St., Suite 5150
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: SUPPORT — Assembly Bill 957 (Wilson)

Dear Assembly Member Wilson:

The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is pleased to support Assembly Bill 957 (Wilson), legislation which would require the court to strongly consider that affirming a minor’s gender identity is in the best interest of the child if a nonconsenting parent objects to a name change to conform to the minor’s gender identity.

The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is a youth-led statewide network comprised of TAY Action Teams and CAYEN Board members which engages, empowers and represents Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 15-26, in mental health advocacy on issues that directly affect TAY. Since CAYEN’s inception in 2006, CAYEN has taken many forms of action to empower TAY in their personal lives and spark progressive change in public policy.

Our transgender youth go on a long journey towards self-discovery. It can be extremely difficult to be one’s authentic self under scrutiny of classmates, friends, and family members. A step someone would take towards reaffirming one’s gender identity is by changing their name. However, sometimes the parent or guardian will actively oppose all attempts of gender reaffirming care causing undue harm to our transgender youth such as but not limited to anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. Assembly Bill 957 would require the courts to consider reaffirming a youth’s gender identity as it is in the youth’s best interest when one parent does not consent to a child’s name and gender marker change. This, in turn, will help to protect and improve the mental health of these transgender youth.

For these reasons, we support Assembly Bill 957. If you or your staff have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at dthirakul@mhac.org, or our Interim Director of Public Policy, Karen Vicari at kvicari@mhacofca.org.

In Community,

Danny Thirakul
Public Policy Coordinator
California Youth Empowerment Network

SB 43 (EGGMAN) Expanding the Definition of “Gravely Disabled” – Opposed

March 22, 2023

The Honorable Susan Eggman
Chair, Senate Health Committee
1021 O Street, Room 3310
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: SB 43 (EGGMAN) as amended February 28, 2023 – OPPOSE

Dear Senator Eggman:

The organizations submitting this letter advance and protect the rights of Californians living with mental health disabilities. We advocate for voluntary, community-based treatment and services and the expansion of choices, rights, and liberties for people living with mental health disabilities.

We oppose SB 43. Based on our extensive experience working with clients and communities across the state, we know that expanding the definition of “gravely disabled” to make it easier to involuntarily detain people undermines the very purpose of the LPS Act and fails to address the real needs of Californians living with mental health disabilities, especially those who are unhoused.

Instead, the Legislature should invest in evidence-based, community- defined programs and services that are proven to meet the needs of Californians living with serious mental disabilities, including affordable, accessible housing with voluntary support services and Assertive Community Treatment.

We also oppose SB 43 because it reflects poor public policy. First, SB 43 will perpetuate health disparities, disproportionately burdening the unhoused and Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and immigrant racial minorities. Second, SB 43 will traumatize individual patients and undermine public health policy by causing patients to distrust behavioral health systems. Third, SB 43 is not supported by any data showing that expanding the definition of “gravely disabled” will lead to positive long-term outcomes. Fourth, SB 43 will exacerbate bottlenecks in the already-strained mental health system, rather than investing in the infrastructure, workforce, and funding needed to meaningfully expand community-based services.

Finally, we oppose SB 43 because it is unconstitutional on its face and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related law. The bill conflicts with constitutional due process protections by relying on vague criteria that requires decision-makers to speculate about future conditions. SB 43 will also cause the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities in violation of the ADA. In addition, the use of hearsay evidence by expert witnesses will infringe upon fundamental rights to due process.

I. SB 43 Undermines the Purpose of the LPS Act.

The primary purpose of the LPS Act is to “end the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of persons with mental disorders….”1 According to the Author’s fact sheet for SB 43, the bill would “modernize” the definition of “gravely disabled” within the LPS Act to better meet the needs of individuals experiencing severe mental illness. However, expanding the definition of “gravely disabled” to make it easier to involuntarily detain people directly conflicts with the purpose of the LPS ACT and does not address the real needs of Californians living with mental health disabilities, especially those who are unhoused.

As the California State Auditor explained, “involuntary holds are but one component of a more comprehensive mental health care system” in California, and “individuals who receive crisis intervention are not always being effectively served by that broader system.”2

While the State Auditor found that “the LPS Act’s [current] criteria for involuntary holds and conservatorships are sufficient to meet the intent of the Act[,]” 3 the State Auditor concluded that expanding criteria for involuntary holds to include standards that are overly broad “could widen the use of involuntary holds and pose significant concerns about infringement on individual rights.4 Accordingly, following its audit of the LPS Act, the State Auditor specifically found “no evidence to justify such a change” to the LPS criteria.5

II. SB 43 Does Not Address the Real Needs of Californians Living with Mental Health Disabilities: The Legislature Should Invest in Community-Defined, Evidence-Based Services such as Affordable and Accessible Housing and Assertive Community Treatment.

Pursuant to the recent LPS Audit, the California State Auditor found that California must invest in its broader behavioral health system in order to “adequately car[e] for Californians with serious mental illnesses….”6 Consistent with the State Auditor’s findings, rather than expanding the definition of “gravely disabled” to make it easier to involuntarily institutionalize people, the Legislature should invest in community-defined, evidence-based programs and services that are proven to meet the needs of Californians with serious mental illness. The Legislature should support the expansion of affordable, accessible housing with voluntary support services and Assertive Community Treatment.

Affordable, accessible housing with voluntary supports addresses the needs of chronically homeless people with disabilities.7 Such housing should be offered on a Housing First basis, which is an evidence-based, client-centered approach that recognizes housing as necessary to make other voluntary life changes, such as seeking treatment or medical care.8 The goal of Housing First is to provide housing to people quickly, with as few obstacles as possible, along with voluntary support services according to their needs.9

While California is making investments to increase access to affordable, accessible housing through initiatives like Project Homekey and No Place Like Home, the Legislature should do more to shore up California’s ability to provide affordable, accessible housing on the scale that it is needed. Moreover, the State must match these housing production investments with investments in programming and workforce to ensure the availability, integration, and continuity of supportive services for people who need them.10 In addition, the State should exercise greater oversight over local jurisdictions to ensure that unhoused people are actually offered and placed in appropriate affordable, accessible housing with voluntary supports. 11

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is an evidence-based practice that utilizes a multidisciplinary team approach to provide a wide range of community-based intensive services to people living with severe mental health disabilities.12 ACT teams operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and services are available for as long as needed and wherever they are needed.13 ACT is a highly integrated, team-based service delivery model, not a case management program, and is proven to be effective for people who have not been adequately served by traditional service delivery approaches.14 ACT is designed to be delivered with fidelity to an evidence- based model. While all California counties are required to provide Full Service Partnerships (FSP), Cal. Code of Regulations § 3620, and some counties have ACT as part of their FSP programs, ACT generally provides a more engaged level of service than the standard FSP.15

The recent behavioral health needs assessment published by DHCS found that ACT is not yet available with fidelity on the scale necessary to support optimal care for people who could benefit from the level of engagement that it offers.16 The multi-disciplinary teams that provide ACT are not a covered benefit under Medi-Cal, despite their established effectiveness in helping people living with serious mental illness remain in the community.17 Expanding the availability of high-fidelity ACT in California would address community needs more effectively than expanding involuntary treatment.

III. SB 43 is Poor Public Policy. A. SB 43 will perpetuate health disparities, particularly for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and immigrant racial minorities.

Senate Bill 43’s expansive grave disability definition will disproportionately impact California’s unhoused population.18 According to a recent UCLA study, people who are unhoused are disproportionately likely to be subject to involuntary holds.19 Patients who are unhoused at the time of admission also experience longer hospitalizations and are more likely to remain unhoused when discharged.20 In California’s current housing landscape, there is no guarantee that a person who was unhoused at the beginning of an LPS Act commitment will remain stably housed after the conservatorship ends.21 The UCLA study concluded that “reliance on conservatorships as a means to secure both longer-term shelter and mental health treatment is a signal of systemic gaps in California’s safety-net systems of care.”22 SB 43 not only reflects these systemic gaps, but threatens to make them worse.

SB 43 will also worsen health disparities by disproportionately burdening Black, Indigenous, people of color and immigrant racial minorities. Rates of serious mental illness in California vary considerably by racial and ethnic groups, with American Indian, Alaska Native, and Black Californians experiencing the highest rates of serious mental illness.23 Moreover, Californians who are unhoused are disproportionately Black or African American.24

Communities of color are also more likely to be unnecessarily institutionalized, even under the current LPS criteria. As but one example, a recent Disability Rights California (DRC) investigation into Alameda County revealed that 55% of individuals involuntarily held over ten (10) times in County psychiatric facilities were African American—even though African Americans make up less than 11% of the County’s population.25 As noted by the County Behavioral Health Director’s Association (CBHDA), an analysis of discharge data from the California Department of Healthcare Access and Information showed that “compared to their White counterparts, Black and Latinx Californians were 57.2% and 154.5%, respectively, more likely to be placed on a 5150 hold.”26 By expanding the criteria for involuntary institutionalization, SB 43 will make this disproportionate impact on communities of color far worse.

Instead of expanding tools for involuntary detention that will exacerbate inequality, California must focus its resources on building out voluntary, culturally responsive, and community-based mental health services and affordable, accessible housing options that will fill gaps in the system.

B. SB 43 will traumatize individual patients and undermine public health policy by causing patients to distrust behavioral health systems.

Institutionalization is harmful and traumatizing for patients and causes long-term harm to California’s public health policy by leading patients to distrust and disengage from behavioral health systems entirely.

One DRC client described their involuntary institutionalization as one of the worst experiences of their life. Although that client had been working with existing mental health providers, the client was nonetheless involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility. At the hospital, the client was tied down with leather restraints, forcibly medicated, and forced to sleep on the floor in a room with other patients. They were not evaluated by a physician for over 24 hours. When they finally saw a doctor, they were evaluated briefly and then discharged without any community-based services or treatment plan. 27

To this day, that client is terrified of the prospect of being re- institutionalized and distrusts public behavioral health services. They describe the difference between receiving mental health services in the community and receiving them in the hospital as the difference between “healing” and simply being “kept alive.”28

C. SB 43 is not supported by any data showing that expanding the definition of “gravely disabled” will lead to positive long- term outcomes.

Any changes to California’s mental health system should be driven by clear data that supports the changes. Although some data collection will begin later this year, it will take some time before meaningful analysis and recommendations can be drawn from that data.29 Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that expanding the ability to place people on LPS Act holds under the criteria of “gravely disabled” will lead to good long-term outcomes for people. 30

In addition, key data regarding SB 43’s potential impact has yet to be analyzed: for example, how many additional people are expected to be placed on LPS Act holds under the proposed expanded definition of “gravely disabled”? The SB 43 fact sheet roughly estimates that one-third of California’s population experiencing homelessness also live with serious mental illness but stops short of assessing the specific number of individuals who would be directly impacted by the proposed bill. This critical missing data point is necessary to analyze the financial, infrastructure, and workforce effects of this bill.

D. SB 43 will exacerbate bottlenecks in the already-strained mental health system.

Expanding the LPS Act’s criteria for involuntary mental health treatment will exacerbate bottlenecks that currently exist in the mental health system and fail to address the core challenges preventing the expansion of community-based mental health services.

The bottlenecks that exist at all levels of California’s behavioral health treatment system are well-documented. In a recent study published by the California Health Care Foundation, counties throughout the state pointed to problems with patient “throughput”—flow across the system of care—being obstructed by a lack of capacity at one or more different levels, causing ripple effects throughout the system.31

These bottlenecks are especially severe at the point when a person is placed on an involuntary LPS Act hold. Many people placed on 5150 holds languish for days in hospital emergency departments while they await referrals to community-based services or placement in acute psychiatric units, if necessary. This places increased stress on emergency departments and does not serve the treatment needs of patients.

Expanding the definition of “gravely disabled” will only make this problem worse, particularly given existing limitations in infrastructure, staffing, and funding.

The infrastructure that will come online via the State’s Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program (BHCIP)32 will not be available soon enough to absorb additional involuntary holds that will result if the changes to the definition of “gravely disabled” under SB 43 are enacted. Sixty-five percent of the $2.2 billion in infrastructure funding under BHCIP was only put out for RFA the second half of 2022.33 Given the time it takes to build out infrastructure, most projects funded by BHCIP are not likely to be available in the near future. Moreover, BHCIP only funds brick-and-mortar infrastructure, not service delivery.34 Without additional funding to provide services, counties and community-based organizations will struggle to offer expanded services necessary to meet community need.

On top of issues related to infrastructure and funding availability for services, California is in the midst of a historic behavioral health workforce shortage. The Legislature and the Administration are making efforts to address this crisis. However, as with the state’s infrastructure investments, it may take time to fully realize efforts to expand the behavioral health workforce.

Lastly, an increase in the number of people placed on short-term LPS Act holds and conservatorships will also impact over-burdened systems outside of behavioral health. Patients’ rights advocates and public defenders will have higher caseloads because more people placed on involuntary holds means more people entitled to legal representation in due process hearings. Similarly, county counsel offices and court systems will experience increased costs resulting from higher LPS caseloads. Finally, public guardian offices— which are already stretched far beyond capacity—will have to shoulder the burden of managing an increased number of LPS Act conservatees.

IV. If Enacted, SB 43 Will Violate the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Related Law.

SB 43 seeks to vastly expand the scope of individuals who can be detained for involuntary mental health treatment under the LPS Act by adding several new bases to support a finding of grave disability.35 For example, SB 43 significantly expands involuntary criteria by allowing individuals with substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder to be detained and conserved. California has no system of involuntarily treating individuals for these disorders. As noted by the CBHDA, “individuals with SMI [serious mental illness] who need involuntary treatment comprise less than 1% of the general population. However, lifetime prevalence for substance use disorders is closer to 10%.”36 SB 43’s inclusion of substance use disorder in involuntary criteria represents a 10-fold increase in the number of individuals potentially subject to involuntary commitment on that basis alone. Further, this raises the question of where these individuals would be held and what system would involuntarily treat them.

The bill also expands the definition of ‘gravely disabled’ in a way that is highly speculative and will lead to detaining people against their will and depriving them of their fundamental rights to privacy and liberty without offering voluntary community-based services.

For example, the proposed expanded definition of gravely disabled will require those making assessments to speculate about who may experience “deterioration, debilitation, or illness” in the future, without offering meaningful guidance about how to make such a subjective determination.37 Although the proposed bill allows consideration of evidence relating to past or present adverse effects, such evidence is not required. Accordingly, individuals conducting these assessments may rely on speculation about future events in making a grave disability finding.

SB 43 is also rife with ambiguous, undefined terms that have no commonly understood meaning that can be applied. For example, the proposed criteria to assess the risk of “serious harm” includes evaluating whether a person can “seek adequate shelter,” “be appropriately or adequately clothed,” “attend to self-protection or personal safety,” and “attend to necessary personal or medical care.” There are no commonly understood meanings to these terms and phrases, and they offer no objective standards upon which those making these assessments may base their criteria determinations. This lack of guidance creates an improper risk of “arbitrary and discriminatory” decision-making in violation of individuals’ constitutional rights. See, e.g., Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 614 (1971) (invalidating unconstitutionally vague statute due to unascertainable standards).38

SB 43 also conflicts with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandates that people with mental health disabilities have a right to access treatment and services in the most integrated setting appropriate. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134.39 Applying this mandate, the United States Supreme Court has held that the unnecessary institutionalization of individuals with disabilities in hospitals or other locked facilities is a form of discrimination prohibited by the ADA. Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581, 597 (1999). By expanding the definition of grave disability, SB 43 will result in the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities without regard to whether integrated community services are appropriate, in violation of the ADA and related law. Id.

V. The Use of Hearsay Evidence by Expert Witnesses will Infringe Upon Fundamental Rights to Due Process.

SB 43 proposes the creation of a new hearsay exception for health practitioner statements in medical records discussed by an expert witness during conservatorship proceedings. The proposed hearsay exception is inconsistent with the California Supreme Court’s ruling in People v. Sanchez, which held that when “any expert relates to the jury case-specific out-of-court statements, and treats the content of those statements as true and accurate to support the expert’s opinion, the statements are hearsay. It cannot logically be maintained that the statements are not being admitted for their truth.” 63 Cal. 4th 665, 686 (2016).

The general bar against the admission of hearsay evidence is intended to guard against imperfect perception, memory, or accounting and to enhance reliability and fairness in trials. People v. Sanchez is the law of this State for criminal cases as well as for LPS civil commitment hearings. See, e.g., Conservatorship of K.W., 13 Cal. App. 5th 1274, 1284 (2017) (assuming that Sanchez applies in LPS proceedings).

For the above reason, we oppose the creation of a new hearsay exception that would further erode the due process rights afforded to individuals in conservatorship proceedings, without justification.

VI. Conclusion

For all the reasons outlined above, we respectfully oppose SB 43.

  • 1 Welf. & Inst. Code § 5001(a) (emphasis added).
  • 2 California State Auditor, Lanterman-Petris-Short Act: California Has Not Ensured that Individuals With Serious Mental Illnesses Receive Adequate Ongoing Care (July 2020) at 21 (http://auditor.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2019-119.pdf) (hereinafter, “LPS Audit”).
  • 3 Id. at 2.
  • 4 Id. at 1, 21 (emphasis added).
  • 5 Id. at 1.
  • 6 Id. at 2, 21.
  • 7 See, e.g., California Statewide Housing Plan, Definitions (https://statewide-housing-plan- cahcd.hub.arcgis.com/pages/definitions).
  • 8 Id.; see also Welf. & Inst. Code § 8255.
  • 9 Id.; see also Maria C. Raven, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., et al., A Randomized Trial of Permanent Supportive Housing for Chronically Homeless Persons with High Use of Publicly Funded Services, Health Services Research 2020;55 (Suppl. 2): 797 at 803 (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1475- 6773.13553) (UCSF study finding that affordable housing with intensive case management significantly reduced psychiatric emergency room visits and increased the rate of scheduled outpatient mental health visits).
  • 10 Recent reporting by Cal Matters underscored the challenges that must be addressed to ensure that PSH is used to its full potential in California. See Jackie Botts, Five Challenges in Expanding California’s Permanent Supportive Housing—and Potential Solutions, Cal Matters, January 17, 2022 (https://calmatters.org/california-divide/2022/01/california-homeless-permanent-supportive-housing-5- challenges/).
  • 11 See, e.g., Nuala Bishari, In San Francisco, Hundreds of Homes for the Homeless Sit Vacant, San Francisco Public Press and Pro Publica, February 24, 2022 (https://www.sfpublicpress.org/in-san-francisco- hundreds-of-homes-for-the-homeless-sit-vacant/).
  • 12 State of California, Department of Health Care Services, Assessing the Continuum of Care for Behavioral Health Services in California: Data, Stakeholder Perspectives, and Implications (January 10, 2022) at 60 (https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/Documents/Assessing-the-Continuum-of-Care-for-BH-Services-in-California.pdf) (hereinafter, “DHCS Assessment”).
  • 13 Id.
  • 14 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Assertive Community Treatment Evidence-Based Practice Kit: Building Your Program at 5 (https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/buildingyourprogram-act_1.pdf).
  • 15 Id. at 16. See also 9 Cal. Code Regs. § 3620 (Full Service Partnership Service Category). ACT is different than Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) because it is meant to be provided in accordance with recovery principles, including consumer choice, not involuntarily under a court order.
  • 16 DHCS Assessment at 14.
  • 17 Id. at 15. Stakeholders interviewed as part of the DHCS Assessment suggested leveraging the State’s proposed SMI/SED 1115 Demonstration Program (otherwise known as the Medi-Cal IMD Exclusion Waiver) to allow Medi-Cal coverage of high-fidelity ACT teams to support programs that would divert people from inpatient hospitalization or incarceration. Id. at 131. We oppose any attempt to waive the Medi-Cal IMD Exclusion. However, if the State chooses to move forward with this plan, it should follow the lead of other states that have successfully added ACT to the menu of Medicaid reimbursable services as part of CMS’s requirement to expand community-based care in conjunction with approval for Medicaid reimbursement for IMD services.
  • 18 SB 43 appears to specifically target the unhoused population for involuntary treatment. The SB 43 fact sheet states that “as many as one-third of California’s population experiencing homelessness are also living with serious mental illness[, which] could mean, even conservatively, tens of thousands of those living houseless in the community are also experiencing a – likely untreated, or undertreated – mental illness. SB 43 Fact Sheet at 2.
  • 19 Kristen R. Choi, Ph.D., R.N., et al., Mental Health Conservatorship Among Homeless People with Serious Mental Illness, Psychiatric Services, Psychiatric Servs. June 2022; 73(6) at 5-7 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9132544/pdf/nihms-1806637.pdf) (hereinafter, “UCLA Study”).
  • 20 Id. at 6.
  • 21 UCLA Study at 6-8.
  • 22 Id. at 7. (emphasis added).
  • 23 California Health Care Foundation, Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity in California: Pattern of Inequity (October 2021) at 33 (https://www.chcf.org/wp content/uploads/2021/10/DisparitiesAlmanacRaceEthnicity2021.pdf).
  • 24 Kate Cimini, Black people disproportionately homeless in California, Cal Matters, October 5, 2019 (updated February 27, 2021) (https://calmatters.org/california-divide/2019/10/black-people- disproportionately-homeless-in-california/).
  • 25 Following this investigation, Disability Rights California along with Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, and the Law Office of Aaron J. Fischer filed a federal lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act against Alameda County and Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services. See DRC v. County of Alameda, Case No. 5:20-cv-05256 (N.D. Cal). The lawsuit challenges the unnecessary and illegal segregation of people withmental health disabilities, especially African American people with disabilities in psychiatric institutions and the failure to ensure people with disabilities are provided the services they need.
  • 26 County Behavioral Health Directors Association, SB 43 (Eggman) Behavioral Health: OPPOSE at 2 (March 13, 2023).
  • 27 Compl. at 7-8, DRC v. County of Alameda, No. 20-5256 (N.D. Cal. July 30, 2020), ECF No. 1.
  • 28 Id. at 8.
  • 29 Senate Bill 929 (Eggman), Chapter 539 , Statutes of 2022, (https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB929).
  • 30 Greater public availability of civil commitment statistics, including frequency of use, who is affected, durations of commitments, treatment outcomes, and trends over time, is needed to develop evidence-based civil commitment practices. See Nathaniel P. Morris, M.D., Detention Without Data: Public Tracking of Civil Commitment, Psychiatric Services 2020; 71:741 at 742 (https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/epdf/10.1176/appi.ps.202000212).
  • 31 California Health Care Foundation, Medi-Cal Behavioral Health Services: Demand Exceeds Supply Despite Expansions, September 2021 at 7-8 (https://www.chcf.org/wp- content/uploads/2021/09/RegionalMarketAlmanac2020CrossSiteAnalysisBH.pdf). “For example, if beds, rooms, or services are unavailable in residential and community settings, bottlenecks form that can maroon patients in acute inpatient settings and emergency departments even after they are ready for discharge. Such a bottleneck can exacerbate inpatient bed shortages by forcing those facilities to keep patients longer than necessary at the expense of would-be new arrivals who instead receive care in a community setting which may not be appropriate for their needs. Inadequate residential placements and outpatient services can, in turn, precipitate a crisis, with people ending up at hospital emergency departments because appropriate non-hospital based services are unavailable.” Id.
  • 32 Department of Health Care Services, Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program (BHCIP), February 15, 2023 (available at: https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/MH/Pages/BHCIP-Home.aspx).
  • 33 Department of Health Care Services, Behavioral Health Infrastructure Program and Community Care Expansion Listening Session, October 2021, at slide 16 (available at: https://ahpnet.adobeconnect.com/p5w2e0xlbaxx/). 34 DHCS Assessment at 23.
  • 35 The current definition of “gravely disabled” that SB 43 seeks to change is “[a] condition in which a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter.” Welf. & Inst. Code § 5008(h)(1)(A).
  • 36 County Behavioral Health Directors Association, SB 43 (Eggman) Behavioral Health: OPPOSE at 2 (March 13, 2023).
  • 37 SB 43 adds to “gravely disabled” “[a] condition that will result in substantial risk of serious harm….” (emphasis added).
  • 38 Similarly, the vague criteria in SB 43 also fails to provide adequate notice to individuals who could be potentially impacted. Due process requires that a statute be sufficiently definite that “ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited….” Tobe v. City of Santa Ana, 9 Cal. 4th 1069, 1106-07 (1995). SB 43’s use of undefined, subjective criteria will not be clear to individuals facing potential LPS Act holds and conservatorships under an expanded definition of grave disability. In addition, these ambiguous terms will also have the unintended effect of disproportionately impacting people solely on the basis of being unhoused, poor, or the victim of an abusive relationship and subjecting them to involuntary treatment under the proposed language.
  • 39 See also Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 794 et seq., 28 C.F.R. § 41.51(d); 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(d) (1991); Gov’t Code §§ 11135-11139.

Sincerely,

Deb Roth
Senior Legislative Advocate
Disability Rights California

Kim Lewis
Managing Attorney
National Health Law Program

Paul Boden
Executive Director
Western Regional Advocacy Project

Tatiana Turner
CEO
Caravan for Justice

Bob Erlenbusch
Executive Director
Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness (SRCEH)

Sharon L. Rapport
Dir., California State Policy
Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH)

Andrea Rivera
Senior Legislative Advocate
California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN)

Melanie Roland
CAMHPRA Board Member
California Association of Mental Health Patients’ Rights Advocates

Paul Simmons
Executive Director
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance – CA

Heidi L. Strunk
President and CEO
California Youth Empowerment Network
Mental Health America of California

Asha Albuquerque
Lead Attorney
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

Tony Chicotel
Senior Staff Attorney
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform

Linda Nguy
Senior Policy Advocate
Western Center on Law & Poverty

Felicity Figueroa
Chair
Orange County Equality Coalition

Stacie Hiramoto
MSW Director Racial & Ethnic
Mental Health Disparities Coalition

Jennifer Vanaman
Executive Director
Peers Envisioning & Engaging in Recovery Services (PEERS)

John Aguirre
CEO
LGBTQ+ Collaborative

Andrea Wagner
Executive Director
CAMHPRO

Kristee L. Haggins, Ph.D.
Executive Director & Founder
Safe Black Space

Rashid F. Sidqe
CEO/President
Lift Up Love Always (L.U.L.A)

Sonya Lam
Executive Director
API Equality-LA

Rhonda M. Smith
Executive Director
California Black Health Network

Mandy Diec
California Deputy Directory
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center

Estella Owimaha Church
Executive Director
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities

Hina Ahmad
Deputy Director
South Asian Network

Myron Dean Quon
Executive Director
Pacific Asian Counseling Services

Paul Masotti
Director of Research/Evaluation
Native American Health Center

Crystal Sanchez
President
Sacramento Homeless Union

Mekdela Ejigu
Environmental Justice Program Coordinator
Black Women for Wellness

Seng S. Yang
Director
Hmong Cultural Center of Butte County

Noe Paramo
Legislative Advocate
CRLA Foundation

Rashid F. Sidqe
Founder/CEO
Lift Up Love Always

Andreya Garcia-Ponce De Leon
Executive Director
San Bernardino Free Them All

Maria Apodaca
Legal Assistant
Project Amiga

Wendy Cabil, BA, L.E.A.D.
MHSA Stakeholder
Community Advocate
Antelope Valley (Los Angeles County)

Susan Gallagher
Executive Director
Cal Voices

ACR 16 (Mike Fong) Opportunity Youth in California – Support

March 13, 2023

The Honorable Al Muratsuchi
Chair Assembly Education Committee
1020 N Street, Room 159
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: ACR 16 (Mike Fong) Opportunity Youth in California – SUPPORT

Dear Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi,

On behalf of a diverse coalition of advocates, we are writing to express our strong support of ACR 16 Opportunity Youth in California.

Opportunity Youth (OY) are individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 that are not in school or working, including youth and young adults involved with the foster care, juvenile justice, and homelessness systems of care. They face unique employment, education, and training barriers that often do not align with efforts that center adults. Opportunity Youth facing socio-economic and systemic barriers are oftentimes disconnected from education and workforce training opportunities, preventing young people of color from accessing our state’s prosperity.

Data collected from the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) of the U.S. Census shows that in California there were 572,756 youth ages 16-24 who were neither in school nor at work (12.5% disconnection rate). Data also indicated the disconnection rate of Black teens and young adults (ages 16-24) was more than twice that of their White peers (22.3% and 10.9%, respectively). Black and Latinx adolescents not only are disproportionately more likely to come from low-income households and have experienced past trauma but are also faced with discrimination that can derail their physical and mental well-being. Additionally, despite declines in youth incarceration, significant gaps remain as youth of color are overrepresented in our criminal justice system. Prioritizing OY will not only expand their education and workforce opportunities but also expand the pool of talent that employers can access to meet their workforce needs.

ACR 16 encourages the State of California to create pathways to success for OY and the need to develop a statewide comprehensive plan that will reduce persistent economic inequities, and prioritize: (1) investments in education and workforce training programs that create pathways to good jobs; (2) expand innovative “earn and learn” opportunities such as apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and work-based learning opportunities; (3) advance dual enrollment implementation to allow OY to earn college credit while earning their high school equivalency; (4) ensure inclusivity of OY in the Cradle-to-Career Data System; (5) remove barriers to access student financial aid programs; and (6) protect social safety net investments that support basic needs such as food, housing, internet access, transportation, childcare, health, and mental health care – enabling OY to complete their education and training goals.

For these reasons, we strongly support ACR 16 and we look forward to our state leader’s support for this important resolution.

If there are any questions, please contact Anna Alvarado at aalvarado@caedge.org.

Sincerely,

Alliance for Children’s Rights
Erica Hickey
Policy Fellow

Bill Wilson Center
Josh Selo
CEO

California Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs
Sarah Bedy
Director

California Children’s Trust
Alex Briscoe
Principal

California EDGE Coalition
Zima Creason
Executive Director

California Forward Action Fund
David Nelson
Executive Director

California Hospital Association
Peggy Wheeler
Vice President of Rural Health & Governance

California Opportunity Youth Network (COYN)
Sean Hughes
Policy Director

California Workforce Association
Bob Lanter
Executive Director

California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN)
Heidi L. Strunk
President & CEO

Center for Employment Training
Pascal Do
COO

Children Now
Danielle Wondra
Senior Policy & Outreach Associate, Child Welfare

City of San Jose
Sarah Zárate
Director, Office of Administration, Policy, and Intergovernmental Relations, City of San Jose

Civicorps
Tessa Nicholas
Executive Director

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
Rita Medina
Deputy Director, State Policy & Advocacy

Coalition for Responsible Community Development
Mark Wilson
President & CEO

EntreNous Youth Empowerment Services
Sara Silva
Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director

Envision Your Pathway
Kendra Fujino
O’Donoghue Executive Director

Excite Credit Union
John Hogan
Vice President Community Relations

Foster Care Counts
Jeanne Pritzker
President

Foster Greatness
Colette Smith
Executive Director

GO Public Schools
Darcel Sanders
CEO

Goodwill Southern California
Dr. Luis B. Castañón
Strategic Impact Officer

Groundwork Social Sector Consulting
Joe Herrity
Principal

Growing Big Ideas
Shawna N Weir-Wright
Chief Possibilities Officer

iFoster
Serita Cox
CEO

John Burton Advocates for Youth
Amy Lemley
Executive Director

Juma Ventures
Adriane Armstrong
CEO

Kids in Common
Dana Bunnett
Executive Director

Lighthouse Silicon Valley
Quency Phillips
Executive Director

Linked Learning Alliance
Anne Stanton
President & CEO

Mental Health America of California
Heidi L. Strunk
President & CEO

New Door Ventures
Kevin Hickey
Chief Program Officer

New Ways to Work
Robert Sainz
President & Executive Director

Pivotal
Matt Bell
CEO

Regional Economic Association Leaders (REAL) Coalition
Cynthia Murray
REAL Coalition Education & Workforce Development Chair

San Diego Workforce Partnership
Nick DeVico
Director of Strategic Youth Initiatives

San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School
Mayra Mejia
Director, CFET Youth Programs & Support Services

Santa Clara County Youth Action Board
Jocelyn Arenas
Board Member

Seen&Heard
Regan Williams
CEO

Small Business Majority
Bianca Blomquist
Political Director

Soledad Enrichment Action
Nathan Arias
President & CEO

The RightWay Foundation
Franco Vega
Founder & CEO

Alliance for Boys & Men of Color
Eric Morrison-Smith
Executive Director

UNITE-LA
Alysia Bell
President & CEO

Urban Strategies Council
David A. Harris
President & CEO

VOICES
Amber Twitchell
Director

Youth Will
Safia Haidari
Director of Policy Advocacy & Organizing

The Unity Council
Chris Iglesias
CEO