We are thrilled to share that the final 2022-2023 state budget includes $60 million for community health navigators! The budget deal was signed on June 30 by Governor Gavin Newsom. Earlier this year, CHC co-sponsored a budget ask to establish a permanent health navigators’ program under the Department of Health Care Services. While the Governor’s budget includes an extension only for four years, we continue to work for sustainable funding and a stronger health navigators program to support all Californians in accessing their health care benefits.

On June 30, CHC’s Stephanie Thornton provided testimony in support of Assembly Bill 2680, which would create a permanent health navigators program and make critical enhancements to strengthen the program. The Senate Health Committee passed AB 2680, which is now headed to the Appropriations committee in August. Below is the text of CHC’s testimony.

My name is Stephanie Thornton, with Community Health Councils located in Los Angeles. For more than twenty years, Community Health Councils has provided health navigation services to low-income communities and communities of color in Los Angeles County. Our navigators are trusted sources of information regarding Medi-Cal and ensure people can access care and troubleshoot issues that arise.

While we appreciate an extension of the pilot program, we have experienced many stops and starts with navigator funding throughout the years. We have been told to wind down multiple times, which can mean preparing to lay off staff and end agreements with partners. For our navigators, this means feeling stressed and worried for the families they serve. For these families, this means frustration and potentially devastating health and financial consequences when assistance is delayed.

Therefore, a permanent program that enables community-based organizations to do this work would ensure consistency and stability for those most in need.

One of our navigators has been supporting a family who immigrated to California from Mexico in 2016. When the mother was hospitalized with a pregnancy loss early in the pandemic, she called our navigator for assistance in understanding the paperwork and hospital procedures. In addition to assisting with translating and navigating the care needed immediately, the navigator met with the finance department of the hospital to ensure they understood the family’s situation. Two years later, the navigator continues to support the mother: helping her respond to a document upload question from Medi-Cal she did not understand and providing a referral to Legal Aid when needed.

These relationships require trust, consistency, and follow-up.  

AB 2680 will ensure these community-based support systems are in place permanently and that more Californians are able to access coverage. Thank you and we respectfully ask for your AYE vote.