I rarely ask for direct political action from readers, but I am now: asking you to write letters to the governor and to the state’s secretary of health and human services to support the governor’s signing of SB1288. If you or someone you know has endured the pain of a kid in trouble with alcohol or other drugs and ever tried to find help that doesn’t require a second mortgage, you will know how important this bill is.

Right now, some substance abuse treatment for youth can be paid by Medi-Cal. However, because the federal matching funds are confined to certain services and certain populations, so has the state’s Drug Medi-Cal become more and more restrictive about what they’ll cover. They don’t provide residential treatment unless a teen is pregnant or parenting, nor does it cover outpatient one-on-one care and other necessary drug and alcohol treatment services. So, parents either cough up $11,000 a month (not a typo), or many public and private agencies have to limit what they can provide, or lose a substantial amount of money providing those extra services, jeopardizing other facets of their agencies. Chances are, you, like me, have spent many phone calls trying to find something for a friend, a neighbor, a family member, at their wit’s end trying to find help keeping their family from being destroyed by the youth’s substance abuse.

As those wise-beyond-their-years students at El Portal Leadership Academy continually remind us, substance abuse starts out as a solution to a problem. Yes, youth experiment with drugs, but they don’t stick with it unless they are trying to escape from or cope with a problem they cannot otherwise handle. The challenge that substance abuse presents is that the abuse creates all these levels of dysfunction that must be managed before you can dig to the real problem that started the abuse in the first place. That’s why this shortage of services is so maddening, and damaging to us as a community. With this in mind, it makes sense that residential treatment, family counseling, case management, and aftercare would be covered services. Currently, they are not. With this bill, they will be.

With Gilroy High students showing in the most recent California Healthy Kids Survey they have more problems with substances than the state average, and too few treatment services (20 slots at GHS, and 20 slots at Mt. Madonna with a special counselor); with Morgan Hill not faring much better, and without any services in its district; with the highest youth incarceration rate and recidivism rate for “testing dirty” in the county, south county is in desperate need of the services that can help turn around young lives and save families.

To recap, what SB1288 does is expand the scope of benefits contained in Drug Med-Cal for youth, ages 21 and under. The new benefits establish a continuum of care that would include residential treatment, if needed, case management, family counseling, and very important after care services to prevent relapse.

The bill passed out of the Senate on a 26-11 vote, roughly along party lines. The bill passed the Assembly Health Committee on a 10-1 vote. It is now before the governor to sign, and indications are that he will not sign it unless he receives input from citizens telling him they want him to do so.

Please join me and the members of the South County Collaborative and go on record urging the Governor to sign this bill.

With early treatment of drug and alcohol problems, we can prevent more instances of homelessness, youth incarceration, academic failure, unintended pregnancies, family dysfunction and a host of other problems, and our community can be the healthy one it aspires to be.

Address your letters to:

The Honorable Arnold


Governor of California

State Capitol Building

Sacramento, CA  95814

Attn. Legislative Unit

Kimberly Belshe’, Secre-

tary, Health and Human


1600 9th Street, Ste. 460

Sacramento CA 05814

Columnist Dina Campeau is a wife, mother of two teens and a resident of Morgan Hill. Her work for the last seven years has focused on affordable housing and homeless issues in Santa Clara County. Her column will be published each Friday. Reach her at [email protected].

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