Newsom proposes huge increase in funding for student mental health services

Newsom proposes huge increase in funding for student mental health services

Among other things, the funding includes $1 billion for a Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative that would help schools pair with community health organizations to provide mental health services. The aim is to offer one-on-one counseling, group counseling and other services to students through the Medi-Cal system. The goal of the initiative, which some districts have already started, is to streamline mental health services and simplify the funding. “The (budget revision) proposes a statewide and comprehensive transformation of the behavioral health system for all Californians age 25 and younger — changing the life trajectory of children so that they can grow up to be healthier, both physically and mentally,” according to Newsom’s budget summary. The initiative would also train more mental health workers, create an online portal for young people to find help, and expand telehealth — counseling sessions conducted over video.

After a year marked by anxiety and isolation for many young people, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a windfall for youth mental health services in California on Friday. Gov. Newsom is proposing more than $1 billion in extra funding for student mental health services.

In his updates to his proposed 2021-22 budget, Newsom increased funding for school and community counseling programs that will make therapy and other mental health services available to every Californian under age 26, he said. Alison Yin/EdSource

Amy Cranston, executive director of the Social Emotional Learning Alliance, said the initiative should be considered as part of broader state efforts to improve lives of children and families in California. Although they’re necessary, mental health programs alone aren’t going to solve complex challenges. “We need to look at the bigger picture and take better care of families and communities, especially those that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” she said. “To realize the promise of this unprecedented investment, we must both acknowledge the impact of racism and poverty on the social and emotional health of children, and center our schools as essential places of healing,” Briscoe said. “We can’t do this hard work without new investment and this unprecedented commitment is both welcome and timely.”

Alex Briscoe, principal of California Children’s Trust, which advocates for the physical and emotional health of children in California, said that if it’s invested well — with a strong focus on equity — the money could help bridge the gap between education, health and social justice. In Newsom’s original budget proposal released in January, funding for the initiative was set at $400 million.

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