We need to solve the mental health crisis; I have a record of success and am a proven champion of democracy

Gail Pellerin, candidate for California Assembly District 28.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

California’s State Assembly District 28 splits between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties and includes most of the city of Santa Cruz. It’s a new district configuration, hammered out to take effect in 2022, and is 50% Democratic and 19% Republican. Lookout asked the candidates running in this race — Liz Lawler, a Republican from Monte Sereno, and Gail Pellerin, a Democrat from Santa Cruz — to submit answers to two questions. Gail Pellerin’s answers are below.

Lookout: What sets you apart from your opponent?

My 35 years of public service at the state and local levels uniquely qualifies me to serve as your state assemblymember. I started my career in the California State Assembly, and for more than 27 years, I served as Santa Cruz County’s chief elections official. Given this experience, I know what the job requires and I am ready to lead on Day One.

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Community Voices Election 2022

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I am dedicated to creating a more sustainable, equitable and healthier community and improving government access, especially for those who are most in need of vital services.

Make no mistake. Democracy is on the ballot in November.

I have been a fighter for democracy most of my life — protecting voting rights, reproductive rights, LBGTQ rights and the right to live in safe, affordable communities. I am dedicated, tenacious and good at creative problem-solving.

I have a proven record of being a collaborator, and I believe that democracy can only thrive if elected officials involve the community in solving the challenges we face, such as mental health, housing, homelessness, and climate change.

I will work hard for you.

As Santa Cruz County Clerk, I used to drive ballots to people’s homes. I went to hospitals or private homes to perform marriage ceremonies when a partner was dying.

When the pandemic hit, I set up online appointments and I went to the office to marry couples and help with COVID relief applications. I believe at one point I was the only county clerk’s office open in the state.

I did that because the community needed these essential services, and I wanted to help. That’s the kind of leader I am.

As we are confronting major threats to voting rights and reproductive rights, and huge challenges impacting our health and well-being, I believe I am the right person for this moment.

Lookout: Please focus on the single most important issue to you right now and how, if elected, you will address it. Be as specific as space allows.

Mental health has profoundly impacted my family.

After my husband, Tom, the father of our two adult children, died by suicide in November 2018, I attended a talk on suicide and the speaker encouraged us to put our grief to work.

As we are confronting major threats to voting rights and reproductive rights, and huge challenges impacting our health and well-being, I believe I am the right person for this moment.

That resonated with me; so I joined a suicide survivors’ group, participated in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Overnight Walk, spoke openly and publicly about suicide and mental health conditions and joined the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

As your state assemblymember, I will be a strong advocate for mental health resources.

California is experiencing a mental health crisis. After more than 2½ years of COVID-19, mental health issues are being identified in record numbers, especially among children and teens. Mental health has been neglected for too long.

State Assembly District 28 candidate Gail Pellerin during a candidate forum
State Assembly District 28 candidate Gail Pellerin during a May candidate forum.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As a result, we have an insufficient number of mental health workers, a lack of affordable and accessible services, and a shortage of mental health facilities.

California launched the 988 mental health hotline this summer. It’s an easy number people in crisis can call or text. The governor recently signed into law Assembly Bill 988 that provides the funding and framework needed to create a robust and comprehensive continuum of mental health crisis support. The goal now is to provide 24/7 emergency mental health response and a sufficient number of care facilities and trained mental health care providers to treat those in a mental health crisis.

Another landmark piece of legislation enacted into law this year was Senate Bill 1338 (Umberg) that enacted California’s new CARE (Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment) Act. This new law is a major step forward to support mental health needs and address homelessness in our state.

These bills are the beginning of the extensive work needed to address the crisis.

I will expand on these efforts to improve access and affordability of mental health services for our children, ourselves and the unhoused. I will advocate for the creation of a select committee on mental health to study to develop longer-range solutions.

I am dedicated to removing the stigma, providing mental health counselors on school campuses, and addressing mental health inequities, including those involving income, race, sexual orientation, age and gender. I will also fight for mental health parity, where insurance companies cover medical and mental health care equally.

Finally, I will collaborate with our county behavioral health departments, mental health advocacy groups, and individuals to meet the mental health needs of our community.

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