Assembly Budget Sub. 1 Hears CDPH and DHCS Substance Use Disorder Items

On Monday, Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services heard items related substance use disorder prevention and addiction treatment from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).

State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Karen Smith provided an overview of CDPH programs and activities related to substance use and addiction, including opioid surveillance and overdose prevention initiatives, cannabis education, and tobacco control activities. Dr. Smith highlighted the most recent data on various substance use-related deaths and emergency department visits, indicating that alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs remain the most common substance causing deaths and nonfatal injuries across the state.

Dr. Smith discussed progress of the Statewide Opioid Working Group and cross-sector collaborations undertaken to decrease the number of opioid prescriptions and opioid overdose deaths in California. Further, Dr. Smith and Center for Health Communities Deputy Director Monica Morales provided an update on the naloxone distribution program, through which nearly 70,000 doses of naloxone were distributed to 60 local health departments.

While California’s opioid use and overdose rates remain among the lowest in the country, Dr. Smith expressed significant concerns with rising rates of heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl uses and the need to expand its focus on partnerships with law enforcement to control access to illicit substances. Dr. Smith provided an overview of funding received by CDPH to conduct its opioid-related programming and services, which has been nearly entirely provided through federal grants.

CDPH provided other updates within other divisions, including on the Let’s Talk Cannabis educational campaign, cannabis regulatory and licensing activities, tobacco control, and problem gambling services.

Subcommittee members queried panelists on strategies being employed by CDPH and local health departments related to youth electronic cigarette and tobacco use, the lack of programming to address alcohol addiction, and opioid prevention activities to specified target populations.

The hearing’s second panel featured DHCS Director Jennifer Kent to provide an overview on key DHCS delivery systems and services related to substance use disorders. Director Kent detailed the Drug Medi-Cal Waiver operating in 25 counties in California and indicated a goal of 40 participating counties which would reach approximately 95 percent of the state’s population.

Related to opioids, Director Kent provided an overview of the $230 million in federal grants for a variety of activities including the medication assisted treatment (MAT) expansion project (Hub & Spoke System), emergency department peer navigators, and naloxone distribution efforts. A representative from Santa Barbara County provided a local perspective of opioid overdose prevention activities, delivery of substance use disorder treatment services, and the nexus with target populations, such as individuals experiencing homelessness and those involved in the criminal justice system, at the county level.

Given that all items were oversight issues, the subcommittee took no action on the items presented and discussed. The full hearing agenda and materials are available here.