Mental health services have been thrust into the 21st century due to the pandemic lockdowns and protocol. The rise in online telehealth services has increased, and many believe it’s for the best. “I definitely think it’s expanded the number of people who are able to be seen,” says Katie Gordon, a North Dakota-based psychologist. Pari Baker, a clinical social worker and therapist in rural Bath County, Virginia said this regarding online, telehealth services, “I can’t imagine going back. I think that would be really devastating, and really doing a disservice to our people.”
However, despite the obvious benefits, for those living in California, there’s a bill that will make a significant impact on the ability to get timely help and support regarding your housing with an Emotional Support Animal. Specifically, this new bill would require that a client have a relationship with their health practitioner for a minimum of 30 days before that practitioner can provide them with documentation allowing them to officially obtain or certify their Emotional Support Animal. Therefore, individuals with real health needs would be discriminated against by making it significantly harder for them to get into housing with their Emotional Support Animals.
This bill seeks to undermine the advancements and the breakthroughs in mental health care that we saw because of the pandemic. The ramifications of it are especially important for what it means to individuals being able to find housing. For those seeking help, potentially on the verge of breakdown, it could catapult them into housing insecurity or worse yet, a full-fledged mental health crisis. It is such a great disservice to those seeking help and could very well be the tipping point of a negative spiral that is completely avoidable with quick access to the appropriate care and treatment.
Why Is This Happening?
The new CA ESA Bill was authored by and introduced by Assembly Member Laura Friedman (Coauthors: Senators Archuleta, Bates, Jones, and Newman). It’s worth noting that Laura Friedman’s campaign was financially supported by the California Apartment Association.
Is it coincidence that someone like Friedman would author and propose a bill making it more difficult for people to maintain their existing rights concerning their support animal while making it easier for landlords to classify these ESAs as “pets” thereby charging what many consider to be “pet rent”?
Is it not concerning that I can go online right now, connect with a telehealth psychologist, receive a diagnosis of ADHD and have a narcotic prescription prescribed by the psychologist all in my first online appointment? Yet…to get an official assessment and documented need for an ESA, I must have an established, 30-day relationship with my therapist or healthcare practitioner?
Why? What’s the difference in the service or the need?
Perhaps the main difference is all the money spent on lobbying by those who would benefit from this bill. This bill will have a significant impact on how quickly residents can obtain housing with an ESA after beginning treatment with a new therapist. It will create a real hardship for individuals seeking care.
Since this bill was lobbied for by the California Apartment Association. It’s apparent that the CAA is only looking to protect their bottom line. It’s unfortunate and sad to that the state would support this kind of bill. It only introduces more barriers in the field of mental health care that is already so stigmatized. For many people, just taking the first step to getting help is such a big deal. Those are the people that we’re here for. And we’re going to continue to fight for and provide the best services for them.
Let’s dig into the specifics, how it impacts you and how we can help.
What You Need to Know
This article makes a clear distinction between Service Animals/Dogs and Emotional Support Animals/Dogs (ESA).
This article requires sellers of Emotional Support Animals to provide documentation to buyers acknowledging the Emotional Support Animal has not been trained as a Service Animal.
This article requires sellers of ESA certificates, identifications, tags, vests, leashes, or harnesses to provide documentation to buyers that the item does not entitle an Emotional Support Animal to the rights and privileges accorded by law to a guide, signal, or service dog.
This article also states that a health care practitioner shall not provide documentation relating to an individual’s need for an emotional support dog unless the health care practitioner complies with all the following criteria:
1. Possesses a valid, active license and includes the effective date, license number, jurisdiction, and type of professional license in the documentation.
2. Is licensed to provide professional services within the scope of the license in the jurisdiction in which the documentation is provided.
3. Establishes a client-provider relationship with the individual for at least 30 days prior to providing the documentation requested regarding the individual’s need for an emotional support dog.
4. Completes a clinical evaluation of the individual regarding the need for an emotional support dog.
5. Provides a verbal or written notice to the individual that knowingly and fraudulently representing oneself to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed as, to be qualified as, or identified as, a guide, signal, or service dog is a misdemeanor violation.
What This Means For You
The main challenge this new law introduces is one of timing. With this new law in place, someone in need of an Emotional Support Animal must have a relationship with their healthcare practitioner for at least 30 days before that practitioner can provide documentation to substantiate and verify the patient’s need for an Emotional Support Animal.
This new 30-day time frame could negatively impact the impending and legitimate need for an individual to receive the mental and emotional help needed by introducing very real challenges in the areas of housing and travel.
A few important questions:
1. What happens to the recently divorced woman who is seemingly crippled by depression due to the collapse of her previous relationship, yet she must figure out how to pay the extras fees her landlord requires since her dog is merely considered a pet instead of the emotional support animal it truly is?
2. How does the young man who struggles with severe social anxiety deal with the fear of crowds and traveling by himself on a plane, yet he needs to be present at his brother’s wedding across the country?
3. Why does someone (like a lawmaker) who is removed from such a personal decision between an individual and their health care professional get to determine how urgent a legitimate need for support and help truly is?
We want your story:
If you are already an ESA owner, send us a simple video (recorded on your iPhone is fine!) sharing how much having an Emotional Support Animal and quick access to mental wellness help via the internet has helped you! You will be helping others that need it!
Here’s how to share it with us:
1. Record a video of yourself telling us your experience.
a. Share it on social media.
b. Tag us @americanservicepets
c. Use the hashtag #
2. Write out your story and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Include a photo of you and your ESA if you can!
American Service Pets has harnessed over 400 signatures across the state of California to preserve the sanctity of ESA owner rights. To sign the petition, please click here.