Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra made a visit to the UC Davis Medical Center on Wednesday.
Secretary Becerra has made behavioral health a key priority for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
His visit follows an announcement Tuesday that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is distributing $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding for its mental health and substance use block grant programs.
David Lubarsky, CEO for UC Davis Health and vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences, School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear, and Chair for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Helen Kales joined the tour of the Early Psychosis Programs on Stockton Boulevard in Sacramento.
The programs, including the EDAPT and SacEDAPT clinics, are nationally recognized as a leading provider of early psychosis care. The clinics provide coordinated specialty care in an outpatient setting that incorporates targeted medication management, individual, family and group psychosocial interventions, case management services, and supported education and employment. The goals are early diagnosis, treatment, and disability prevention.
Since March 13, 2020, outpatient clinical visits have been conducted via telemedicine due to COVID-19.
Tara Niendam, an associate professor and the executive director of the UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs, and Cameron Carter, professor and director of the EDAPT Clinic, led the tour. They introduced Becerra to clinic faculty and staff who described the program, the integration of research into clinical care, and experience treating youth with mental health disorders and their families.
The presentation stressed that early identification of serious mental illness and provision of comprehensive services to impacted youth and families are critical for good outcomes.
After the tour, Secretary Becerra met with UC Davis Health leadership and state and local officials, including California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna and Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services Director Ryan Quist to discuss priorities for addressing substance abuse and mental health issues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health in the United States. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by the Commonwealth Fund show close to 90,000 overdose deaths for the 12 months ending in September 2020. That’s about 27% higher than the previous year. In June 2020, adults reported elevated levels of adverse mental health conditions, substance use and suicidal thoughts. Symptoms of anxiety were approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and the prevalence of depression was about four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019.
In announcing the block grants, Secretary Becerra stated: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the need to invest resources in our nation’s mental health and address the inequities that still exist around behavioral health care. That’s why we are making this historic investment in mental health and substance use services.”
Xavier Becerra was born and grew up in Sacramento, California. He served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was one of the original co-sponsors of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Secretary Becerra was the first Latino to serve as California Attorney General and is the first Latino to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is married to Carolina Reyes, a perinatologist and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UC Davis Health.