Senator Kamlager's Legislation to Bring Health Care to Unhoused Communities, AB 369, Vetoed by Governor Newsom

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, Senator Sydney Kamlager’s legislation, AB 369: The Street Medicine Act, was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom. 

“Today’s veto is an absolute affront to the work street medicine providers have been doing to support and care for California’s unhoused community,” said Senator Kamlager, author of AB 369. “AB 369 offered real, tangible solutions to everyday problems. Just walk down any major street in California, and you’ll see the need for urgent health care amongst our unhoused communities. And with the color of skin that looks like mine. The lives of so many people who are ill and reside on the street could’ve been saved with this legislation, and I’m outraged to see those very lives ignored by the strike of a pen.” 

AB 369 would have allowed for people experiencing homelessness (PEH) to access health and social services outside the walls of a traditional medical clinic, including street medicine, shelter-based care, and within transitional housing. Understanding PEH are oftentimes faced with overwhelming barriers to health care, AB 369 aimed to truly meet people where they are. 

AB 369 sailed through the Legislature, having received nearly unanimous support when most recently voted on in the Assembly and Senate. 

The Governor's veto message stated the bill was vetoed because "Creating a ‘carve out’ for persons experiencing homelessness, on the eve of the CalAIM transformation, will cut out these patients from services that are being created specifically to support their health, housing stability, and overall well-being."

Senator Kamlager, in response to the veto message, noted, "AB 369 would actually make CalAIM work. CalAIM's plan relies on the same tired formulas and criteria that continue to marginalize the unhoused and prevent them from accessing care. AB 369 would reimburse providers, eliminate barriers and save lives." 

AB 369 was the first legislation of its kind in the country. The bill was supported by 70 entities across the state, including the California Medical Association, Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, California Association of Veteran Service Agencies, the counties of Kern and San Francisco, and many others. 

“The California Academy of Family Physicians is disappointed that the Governor vetoed AB 369, which would have increased access to comprehensive care and improved health equity for Californians experiencing homelessness,” said Shannon Connolly, MD, President of California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP). “Family physicians care for individuals throughout their lives and address the whole spectrum of life’s medical challenges so they understand the importance of providing health care services to persons experiencing homelessness where they are.  They are part of street medicine teams that go to people experiencing homelessness to provide them with medical and behavioral health care, treatment for substance use disorders, and basic necessities.”

The University of California, in response to the Governor’s veto, signaled the fight for health care for unhoused communities remains ongoing. “UC looks forward to working with the Administration in the future in crafting a solution for unhoused individuals to safely and effectively access healthcare,” said a University of California spokesperson.

“We are living in the midst of the greatest health and housing crisis of our generation,” added Senator Bradford, Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. “It is unconscionable to think Governor Newsom would veto this important legislation designed to provide immediate healthcare to the states most vulnerable citizens in dire need of medical support. The California Legislative Black Caucus does not support the Governor’s decision to veto this bill.”

“At a time when the state enjoys a budget surplus and ample federal support, we need California to take bold steps to protect all Californians, especially those struggling the most.  If signed, AB 369 would have provided a lifeline to those experiencing homelessness and access to the health care they desperately need,”  noted Housing California Policy Director Christopher Martin. “We'll continue to work with Senator Kamlager to advance bold solutions that create a more compassionate California where we can all thrive regardless of our circumstances.”

The University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Family Medicine’s Student Run Homeless Clinics and University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, supporters of the bill, were also instrumental in helping craft the legislation. 

"Sadly, the problems still exist that AB369 was designed to eliminate. The lack of the Governor's signature just adds one more barrier,” said Mary Marfisee, MD, MPH, an Assistant Clinical Professor and Clinical Programs Director of the UCLA Homeless Healthcare Collaborative, and one of the principal advisors for AB 369. “Slowing down the process to provide rapid medical care to people living on the streets and encampments, only slows down, even more, their path to housing. But we're not giving up. We need the state of California to work with us experienced street providers to design solutions."

"With Governor Newsom [vetoing] AB 369, he must create another way to grant them access to the care they are already eligible to receive through Medi-Cal,” said Brett Feldman, Director of Street Medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. "A veto of AB 369 means the system will be left unchanged. The upward trajectory of death and disease will continue among our homeless neighbors, void of a legitimate way to access the Medi-Cal benefits they're eligible to receive."

The work of USC’s Street Medicine program was featured in the Indivisible People’s mini-documentary: We Can’t Let Homeless People Die: USC Street Medicine on Skid Row. The documentary was intended to shed light on the day-to-day operations of a street medicine team.

“Regardless of housing status, people are deserving of love, compassion, and health care,” continued Senator Kamlager. “Today’s veto doesn’t deter us from the broader fight to make health care access a reality--it only compels us further. This fight is far from over.”

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Senate District 30 ranges from Century City to South Los Angeles and takes in Culver City, Cheviot Hills, Crenshaw District, USC, downtown L.A. and a portion of Inglewood.