U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and California Governor Gavin Newsom met with Deputy Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Andrea Palm, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, and Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Nani Coloretti at the White House to discuss increased cooperation between the state and the Biden Administration to improve mental health and homelessness services in California. Specifically, they discussed bringing additional federal Medicaid resources to bear to increase California’s ability to treat and provide resources for people experiencing homelessness with behavioral health challenges.
“As California undertakes transformative new efforts at the state, county, and municipal levels to address our homelessness and mental health crises, I welcome the Biden Administration’s collaboration to ensure that we have the resources to provide services to those most in need,” said Senator Padilla. “Unlocking additional federal Medicaid funding would be instrumental in helping states like California respond to the homelessness and mental health crises afflicting our communities.”
Current regulations prohibit states from using Medicaid to pay for care provided in “institutions for mental disease” (IMDs), psychiatric hospitals, or other residential treatment facilities that have more than 16 beds. Given the scale of the homelessness crisis in California, this has become a major barrier to community efforts to address homelessness. Medicaid funding is essential to the financing of new facilities and services to treat people experiencing homelessness with behavioral health challenges, but it is often impractical to create a facility with only 16 beds.
The HHS Secretary has the authority to review and approve Section 1115 waivers to give states authority to make changes to Medicaid that are deemed to further the program’s overall purpose without increasing costs.
Padilla underscored the need to take urgent action to address California’s homelessness and mental health crises. The meeting ended with a commitment from both federal and state officials to increase the coordination of their work around homelessness and mental health.