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Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Assembly Bill 483 to Enable California Schools to Bill for More Federal Medicaid Funding for School-Based Health and Mental Health Services

For immediate release:

Torrance, CA - Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 483, which will expand access to school-based health and mental health services by making it easier for schools to participate in the Local Education Agency Billing Option Program (LEA BOP) and receive federal Medicaid reimbursement for health services provided to Medi-Cal eligible students. Currently, the LEA BOP is administratively burdensome, with punitive audits and excessive documentation requirements. AB 483 will reform this process and encourage more schools to bill for more Medicaid-eligible services.

More than half of all children in California are enrolled in Medi-Cal. A recent change in California's Medi-Cal program authorizes schools to bill Medi-Cal for services provided to all Medi-Cal eligible students, not only those with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The LEA BOP reimburses LEAs for the federal share of approved health related services (typically 50 percent) provided by qualified practitioners. Covered services include nursing services, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physician services, psychology, physical therapy, and health/mental health evaluation, among others. LEA providers must maintain records on the type and extent of LEA services provided to Medi-Cal recipients.

Currently, according to DHCS, 595 LEAs, or only around one-half of all LEAs in California, participate in the LEA BOP. In aggregate, California schools bill far less, and draw down significantly less in reimbursements for Medicaid services than other states. For example, California spends $29 per Medi-Cal eligible child, while Montana generates over $500 per eligible child.

"I want to thank Governor Gavin Newsom for signing AB 483," said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), the bill's lead author. "This new law will allow California schools to receive more ongoing federal Medicaid funding to provide much needed student health services, including mental health care. Currently, California schools bill and draw down far less Medicaid reimbursement dollars than most other states because of a punitive and unnecessarily bureaucratic Medicaid reimbursement audit process."

"I'm honored to stand with Assemblymember Muratsuchi to support our schools in delivering critical services like mental health counseling, therapy services, and vision screenings," said joint author Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg). "Making this program more user-friendly for schools means more resources to hire and retain school nurses and counselors."

"We are proud to be part of the labor-management coalition that has led advocacy to increase school-based behavioral health and wellness services over the last several years in partnership with the Administration and legislative leaders like Assemblymember Muratsuchi. We look forward to working with the state agencies to ensure that AB 483 is implemented with fidelity and brings additional federal funding into California's schools," said Santa Clara County Office of Education Superintendent, Dr. Mary Ann Dewan.

"Los Angeles Unified is a proud co-sponsor of Assembly Bill 483 by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, which brings much-needed updates to the Medi-Cal reimbursement and billing processes," said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. "The current process of seeking federal reimbursements is unduly complex and creates uncertainty despite school districts like Los Angeles Unified continuing to serve students. This bill helps schools expand access to school-based health services and ensures that schools receive timely reimbursements. While additional improvements may be needed to the current process in the future, the oversight that AB 483 brings will significantly boost the efficient delivery of available services to our most disadvantaged children."

"There is a severe need for mental and behavioral health services for students. AB 483 will expand students' access to critically needed school-based health and mental health services and improve schools' ability to access federal funding that has been allocated for this purpose." said Melissa Wood, President, California Association of School Psychologists (CASP). "CASP is a proud co-sponsor AB 483. We applaud AB 483 author Assembly Education Chair Al Muratsuchi and co-author Assembly Health Committee Chair Jim Wood for their leadership in making this federal program more user friendly for school districts. We thank Governor Gavin Newsom for signing AB 483 so students and their families will have easier access to the health and mental health services they need at their local school site."

"CTA is proud to have co-sponsored AB 483 – critical legislation that will ensure funding for our schools at a time when we are looking to build critical services with the expansion of Community Schools. This legislation offers federal reimbursement of dollars that schools currently spend on physical and behavioral health services for students. The changes required in the Department of Health Care Services LEA Billing Option Program (BOP) audit procedures will also greatly benefit students and their families," said California Teachers Association (CTA) President David Goldberg.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the need for youth health and mental health services. In the first year of the pandemic, intentional self-harm among 13-18 year olds increased by 91%, overdoses increased by 95%, and diagnoses of major depressive disorder increased by 84%. In order to address these issues, schools need significant support to build the capacity necessary to provide comprehensive health and mental health services for children and youth.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi represents California's 66th Assembly District, which includes El Segundo, Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, San Pedro and Torrance. Muratsuchi is Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Chair of the Select Committee on Aerospace, and is a member of the Committees on Budget, Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, Military and Veterans Affairs, Natural Resources, Utilities and Energy, and the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies.

CONTACT: Kerry Jacob, 310-806-0893