June 27, 2023
California Congressman Adam Schiff has authored legislation that would address one of the most difficult issues plaguing our nation’s health care system: providing access to mental and behavioral health services for individuals experiencing homelessness.
The most recent federal estimates indicate that more than 580,000 individuals experience homelessness on any given night, and approximately one-third of unhoused people suffer from a substance use disorder or mental health issues.
Many of these individuals are disconnected from the health care system and are unable to receive much-needed health services. Rep. Schiff’s Providing Access to Treatment and Housing (PATH) Act aims improve access to mental health and substance abuse disorder services for unhoused individuals by:
- Establishing a new office within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration tasked with leading federal efforts to improve and expand access to substance use disorder and mental health services for individuals who are unhoused or experiencing housing instability.
- Establishing a grant program funded at $2 billion annually that will support efforts by states, cities, territories and to improve behavioral health (including substance use disorder), mental health, and housing services for unhoused individuals with mental and behavioral health disorders.
The funding from the program would be used to:
- Expand access to mental and behavioral health services, including diagnostic services.
- Expand overdose prevention efforts and harm reduction strategies.
- Increase the number of mental and behavioral health workers who treat unhoused individuals.
- Expand and increase care coordination for unhoused individuals.
- Establish and expand housing programs for unhoused individuals experiencing mental and behavioral health conditions.
- Support and expand evidence-based training for non-health care professionals that interface frequently with the unhoused population, such as law enforcement and first responders.
The California Medical Association (CMA) commends Congressman Schiff for his willingness to develop solutions to this difficult issue. CMA proudly supports the PATH Act, which will help us improve health equity for communities of color across California and the nation.