The issue: California law requires health care providers to schedule a mental health assessment, also known as “intake,” within two weeks of the patient requesting to be seen by a therapist. An intake is social, clinical, and demographic data taken for useful and helpful information. This is asked of the patient by clinicians to obtain accurate and up-to-date information before being assigned a therapist best suited for their needs. Until recently, no law required a session to be scheduled with a therapist after an intake has taken place.
Fact: The number of psychiatrists who reported receiving more referrals almost doubled from 37% in 2020 to 62% in 2021. Almost 7 in 10 psychiatrists (68%) have reported that their waitlist has grown extensively since the start of the pandemic.
Introducing SB221: Bill SB221 is a mental health law that guarantees Californians the right to timely mental health and substance use disorder sessions with a certified therapist. This bill went into effect on July 1. It was signed into law in 2021 by a bipartisan vote. What this bill does is requires HMOs and all other health care insurance companies to provide mental health and substance abuse disorder therapy sessions as well as inpatient or outpatient treatment within two weeks of having their intake submitted.
Filing a complaint: If your health care plan is Medi-Cal you can request an independent review by going online or by calling 855-795-0634. You can also call your health care service line to find out which agency your health care belongs to. If it is the Department of Managed Health Care, you can request an independent review by calling 888-466-2219 or logging on to HealthHelp.ca.gov. If your regulator is the California Department of Insurance, you can call 800-927-4357.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Need immediate counseling? Starting July 16, the three-digit dial code for suicide & crisis lifeline became available. The 988 phone number is a crisis hotline call center providing access 24/7 to a live agent. This service is free of charge for anyone in need of support while going through thoughts of suicide, emotional distress as well as a substance use crisis.
Questions about 988? You can email all questions to 988Team@samhsa.hhs.gov.