Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Subcommittee No. 3 Discusses COVID-19 and STDs
Yesterday, the Senate Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Health and Human Services heard items under various state agencies. Of particular interest were items related to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which included hearing from State Public Health Director and Health Officer Sonia Angell on COVID-19 response activities as well as hearing a comprehensive array of stakeholder requests for resources to address the rising tide of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and HCV.
Dr. Angell first presented a State of the State’s Public Health, mirroring her address provided to the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1. Dr. Angell then provided Senators with the most case numbers and an overview of the Administration’s efforts. Following her presentation, Senator Pan began to question California’s public health infrastructure both at the state and local level. While Dr. Angell’s comments focused on California’s preparedness efforts, Senator Pan continued to push, raising questions about public health funding declines both at the state and federal levels. Dr. Angell later indicated that public health could always use more resources; but coupled with saying resources are not the issue with the current response.
The hearing also featured a panel discussion consisting of associations representing public health, hospitals, and other health care facilities engaged in COVID-19 response activities. Kat Deburgh from the Health Officers Association of California provided the local health department perspective, raising the need for messaging from CDPH regarding testing priorities, state staff for any alternate care sites, a statewide call center to field the influx of calls, facilities for isolation and quarantine for people without housing, and guidance on jails and casinos, among other areas. She also elevated ongoing needs, such as continued investment in communicable disease infrastructure, workforce development and training, creating pipelines for future public health workforce through loan forgiveness programs or lower certification fees for public health nurses, and lastly, public health labs.
Other panelists included representatives from the California Primary Care Association (CPCA), the California Hospital Association (CHA), the California Association of Public Hospitals (CAPH) and the California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF). A number of challenges were raised, including the lack of testing availability and personal protective equipment, limited staffing due to exposures, and limited bed space. Senator Pan also echoed concerns around the availability of testing and need to expand testing capacity across the state.
CHEAC’s sponsored budget request for $20 million ongoing General Fund for STD navigation services is now being co-sponsored by SEIU and was jointly presented before the budget subcommittee. Pan expressed appreciation for bringing the budget proposal forward.
The End the Epidemic’s Coalition presented their budget requests for:
- $3 million ongoing General Fund for STD prevention;
- $5 million ongoing General Fund for the Office of AIDS Syringe Exchange Supply Clearinghouse;
- $2 million one-time General Fund for the development of a Master Plan on HIV, HCV and STDs;
- $15 million General Fund to address HIV health inequities;
- Increasing ADAP and PrEP-AP eligibility from 500 percent FPL to 600 percent FPL to align with new Covered California subsidies; and
- $15 million ongoing General fund for HCV prevention, linkage to and retention in care.
All items were held open.