Workers Comp Zone


California’s workers’ compensation needs more mental health treatment providers. A bill has now been introduced which may help address the problem.

The bill is SB 1002 (Portantino). A link to the current bill text can be found below.

Attorneys for injured workers can verify that it is frequently very difficult to identify doctors who will treat for mental health under workers’ comp.

MPN networks often contain names of doctors who actually won’t take workers’ comp. Providers on the list often say they are full in their practices and not currently adding new patients.

In parts of the state workers may be able to locate mental health treatment on a lien when the insurer’s MPN has nothing to offer. In other areas of the state that is a virtual impossibility.

What would SB 1002 do? The bill would broaden the definition of medical treatment under Section 3209.5 of the Labor Code. Currently LC 3209.5 does not specify licensed clinical social workers as a type of defined medical treatment.

It is true that a separate provision, Labor Code 3209.8, currently specifies that treatment reasonably required to cure or relieve the injury “shall include the services of marriage and family therapists, professional clinical counselors, and clinical social workers…”. So I suppose in some sense SB 1002 is really a bill cleaning up any ambiguity since currently Labor Code 3905.5 does not track Labor Code 3209.8.

And while we’re at it, perhaps marriage and family therapists and professional clinical counselors also need to be referenced in 3209.5.

I’m not aware of any stats or studies on how frequently LCSWs or marriage and family therapists are treating California injured workers. 

So whether SB 1002 would be very consequential is not clear.

But clearly efforts must be made to get more mental health resources into the system.

California legislators are noting mental health care access as a major problem. SB 221 (Wiener) (see link below) addressed the problem of delayed access to mental health treatment in health insurer and healthcare service plans. SB 221 imposes a 10- day time limit (from date of request) to see a non-physician mental health care or substance use disorder provider and a 10 day followup appointment standard. While these standards would not appear to be applicable to California workers’ comp treatment, they should send a message to the workers’ comp community.

There is a need to educate and hire more therapists. If LCSWs can help, great.

Under the current version of SB 1002, LCSWs would not be authorized to do disability certification.

Here is the link to SB 1002 (Portantino):

And here is the link to SB 221 (Wiener), enacted in 2021:

Stay tuned.

Julius Young