Cultural Competence in Mental Health Bill Passes Out of CA Senate Health Committee

Community win occurs during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Sacramento, CA – July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and SEARAC continues the fight to improve cultural and linguistic competence in mental health services through SEARAC-sponsored CA legislation Assembly Bill 512 (Ting). On July 10, AB 512 passed out of the CA Senate Health Committee (7-1). Two SEARAC Leadership and Advocacy Training (LAT) alumni, Yia Xiong and Ryan Tieu, served as expert witnesses during the committee hearing. Sponsors of the bill include SEARAC, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN)#Out4MentalHealth, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC), California Black Health Network (CBHN), and Steinberg Institute.
In her testimony, Yia Xiong, director assistant of the Hmong Cultural Center of Butte County, described the frustration with the lack of culturally and linguistically competent mental health services at the local level despite her organization’s advocacy, data collection, and focus group participation. Yia pointed out, “Our community members remain undiagnosed, untreated, and endangering their lives; living with PTSD or anxiety because of the lack of culturally and linguistically competent mental health services. AB 512 improves cultural competency of county mental health plans, making mental health services more accessible to the Hmong community to access life-saving care and finally help end the war they relive every day.”
During the hearing, Ryan Tieu, counseling program manager at the Gender Health Center, and a recent participant of SEARAC’s 2019 Leadership and Advocacy Training, emphasized the critical need for culturally and linguistically competent mental health for the LGBTQ+ community. Ryan shared, “Although the framework and spirit of cultural competency has long existed in mental health field, the lack of accountability, insufficient data, and improvement tracking has contributed to disparities in quality and access to mental health treatment for LGBTQ communities and transgender communities of color, in particular. We know that the lack of culturally and linguistically competent mental health care services traumatizes and eventually discourages us from seeking services in the first place.”
“Improving cultural and linguistic competence in mental health services is critical to increasing access, utilization, and reducing mental health disparities in the Southeast Asian American community,” says Nkauj Iab Yang, director of California programs and policy. “Requiring counties to improve the cultural competence of their mental health plans is long overdue. It is imperative that Southeast AsianAmerican families can heal half-century wounds and trauma of displacement and navigating systems of oppression in the US.”
SEARAC applauds the leadership of CA Assemblymember Phil Ting (AD-19) and the CA state senators for passing AB (AB 512) out of the Senate Health Committee. Additionally, SEARAC would like to commend Sen. Lena Gonzalez, of Long Beach, and Sen. Melissa Hurtado, of Sanger and parts of Fresno, for demonstrating an even deeper commitment to cultural competence and mental health as co-authors of AB 512.
AB 512 will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a fiscal analysis. To view the CA Senate Health Committee hearing on AB 512, please start the video at 1:04:40.