SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Brown signed Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry’s Assembly Bill 2576 into law over the weekend. This proposal, part of Aguiar-Curry’s package of wildfire recovery legislation, is critical to ensure that communities continue to receive timely access to health care when disaster strikes. After finding critical barriers to clinics’ and other health providers’ ability to provide health care and receive reimbursement for health services clinics during and after the devastating 2017 wildfires, Aguiar-Curry introduced AB 2576 to streamline the system.
The roughly 1,300 community health centers in California provide high-quality comprehensive care to 6.5 million people – that’s 1 in 6 Californians. Community clinics provide the full spectrum of care, from primary care, to dental and behavioral care, and a variety of additional wraparound services to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, immigration status, or individual circumstances. However, when a clinic burns down or is damaged, the current rules restrict health providers from being able to deliver health services in the field.
The 2017 wildfire season was one of the worst in California’s history. Over a three month period, nearly two dozen health center corporations, serving a 10 county region, were impacted by the fires. In addition to firefighters, police officers, and government officials who worked together to coordinate relief efforts in the affected areas, community health center providers were on the front lines, treating patients and providing resources to victims.
“When fires are raging throughout our state, doctors, nurses and other health professionals shouldn’t have to worry about arcane rules that prevent them from doing their jobs,” said Aguiar-Curry. “These folks did incredible work under impossible circumstances to help patients in every conceivable kind of ‘non-hospital’ environment. The rules said you couldn’t deliver treatments or medications to people in need without the ‘four walls’ of the clinic. Well, what if those four walls have burned down? We had to act to make sense out of a situation that couldn’t wait.”
AB 2576 will clarify state law to ensure that during an emergency providers can have telephonic appointments with patients, provide check-ups at shelters for evacuated patients, and make home visits where needed. Current rules restrict all of these methods of providing services from receiving reimbursement outside of the ‘four walls’ of a community health center facility. The bill will also create an accelerated Board of Pharmacy permitting process for health centers to create temporary pharmacy sites when the clinic is inaccessible. These changes are critical to ensuring that patients impacted by a disaster can continue to receive the care they need, while also avoiding unnecessary strain on emergency services.
“With the recent devastating fire season that affected Californians across the state, I am thankful to see the Governor’s continued dedication to essential health care and his signing of Assembly Bill 2576,” said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, President and CEO of CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates.” This critical legislation will improve timely access to care for communities during declared emergencies. Combined efforts from the resilient leadership of Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry and our vital partnership with the Redwood Community Health Coalition enabled AB 2576 to make it to the Governor’s desk.”
Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento.