August 2013 Newsletter

August 23, 2013

A SOLUTION TO POLLUTION

Help take care of a precious resource by joining volunteers to clean up Los Gatos Creek on Saturday, Aug. 24, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., at Campbell Park, located at Campbell and Gilman avenues. Registration begins at 8:45 a.m.

For almost a decade -- first as a Santa Clara County supervisor, then as a state Assemblymember, and now as a state Senator - I have sponsored an annual clean-up of the creek with volunteers from throughout the area. Clubs and classes are welcome and participation in the beautification project is a great way for students to fulfill their community service requirement.

This event is free and everyone is welcome to participate, weather permitting. Trash bags and gloves will be provided. Dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy shoes.

To RSVP, please phone the Senate District 15 office, (408) 558-1295, or visit my state website.


GRAFFITI

In response to frequent phone calls and letters complaining about graffiti, I have talked with Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol about keeping our freeways clean and safe. I am glad to report that the CHP has assigned two officers in the San Jose area to investigate graffiti crimes and damage to state property. Recently, the CHP arrested seven people on felony counts of suspicion of vandalism.

If you spot trash, illegal dumping, or graffiti on our highways, you can report it online by visiting the Caltrans website.

The city of San Jose also has a free mobile app - 'San Jose Clean' - that allows citizens to send a photo and the GPS location of the graffiti to the city. If the reported vandalism is on a state highway, the information will be relayed to Caltrans.

Freeway signs, walls, and bridges have become frequent targets for graffiti. The spray paints are especially harmful to freeway signs because repeated washings damage the reflective coatings that allow them to be read easily at night by motorists. Replacing a large sign can cost up to $10,000.


CHILDHOOD MENTAL ILLNESS

In California, up to half of all children with a mental disorder will go without treatment. The Affordable Care Act may be able to help bridge that gap.

I have long advocated making mental health treatment and therapy accessible and affordable for both children and adults. Last year, I co-authored SB 946, legislation requiring private health insurers to cover the costs of therapy for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

This year, I've continued fighting for improved access to mental health and addiction therapies by introducing SB 22 to beef up California's ability to monitor and measure health insurers' compliance with federal and state mental health parity laws.

Why is SB 22 important? Kaiser Permanente agreed to pay up to $9 million to settle a class action lawsuit that accused the health plan illegally refusing to provide behavioral therapy for autistic children before it was mandated by SB 946. Kaiser was ordered to establish a fund to reimburse members who incurred out-of-pocket expenses for applied behavioral analysis or speech therapy.

Parity laws are essential. They require health coverage plans to ensure that the financial requirements -- such as co-pays, deductibles -- and treatment limitations -- such as visit limits - for the treatment of mental health or substance use disorders are no more than the treatment applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefit.

The upshot is that diseases of the mind will now be treated as seriously as any physical sickness or injury. Getting early treatment for children can prevent more serious and more costly ramifications for their lives and for taxpayers whose dollars support public medical services and the public safety workers - such as police and fire - who often are the first responders for incidences involving people with mental and substance use disorders.

Childhood mental disorders means all mental disorders that can be diagnosed and begin in childhood, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, behavior disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, and substance use disorders.

These conditions result in serious changes in the ways children typically learn, behave or handle their emotions. Symptoms usually start in early childhood, although some of the disorders may develop throughout the teenage years.

A Centers for Disease Control study, released in May, is the first comprehensive report to assemble data on specific mental health illnesses among children ages 3 to 17 in the United States. The report, 'Mental Health Surveillance Among Children,' includes statistics on everything from autism to alcohol abuse and relied on data collected from various agencies between 2005 and 2011.


HEALTHCARE

Get ahead of the curve for the Affordable Care Act and get a jump on staying healthy by coming to my free Medicare and Health Forum on Saturday, Oct., 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the Campbell Community Center. To RSVP, call (408) 1295 or click here.

Whether you are insured, uninsured, or on Medicare, this forum will answer your questions so you can take control of your health and your healthcare costs. Learn how to avoid mistakes that could cost you hundreds of dollars in healthcare and prescription costs.

Application assistance and Medicare health insurance counselors will be on hand to provide individual assessments on options best suited to your short- and long-term goals.

On Jan. 1, millions of Californians will have new options in attaining affordable, high-quality health insurance coverage offered through Covered California, our state health care exchange. Pre-enrollment for coverage begins October 1, with health care coverage commencing New Year's Day.

This month, Covered California announced 12 health care plans will participate in the health care exchange. Click here for an online booklet detailing the plans and their prices.

If you miss the Oct. 5 forum, I am co-hosting a Community Health Fair on Saturday, Oct. 19, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Mayfair Community Center, 2039 Kammerer Ave., in San Jose. Representatives from Covered California and Medicare health insurance counselors will be available to provide individual assessments on options for your short- or long-term goals.

Free flu shots, blood pressure checks, glucose screenings and more will be offered at the Community Health Fair. The fair is also being co-hosted by Sourcewise - formerly known as the Council on Aging; SEIU 52; and the Community Health Partnership.