Increasing Children's Access to Mental Health Services

February 07, 2018

SACRAMENTO – To increase mental health funding for children, a proposal to allocate at least half of grant funding for triage services available under the Mental Health Wellness Act for youth 18 years and younger was introduced today by Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose.

“The majority of mental health and crisis intervention funding is targeted for adults but we should remember the needs of children are no less important,’’ said Beall, who serves as chairman of the Senate Mental Health Caucus. “It is crucial to get children who are experiencing a mental health crisis quickly connected to treatment and counseling.

“If the state can get kids the early help they need, it will defuse future problems and make their future brighter. Parity in funding is a simple step that does not cost the state more money  but will benefit children for the rest of their lives – and that’s good for California.’’

Senate Bill 1019 targets an issue raised by the state Mental Health Services Accountability Commission, which found that just 15 percent of the funding available through the first round of triage grants issued under the wellness act went to programs that served school-age children. Of the $32 million that was reserved for crisis triage programs, less than $5 million went to programs that served children.

 

When compared with adults, children in California appear to have a greater need for mental health services. Approximately 1 in 20 adults suffers from a serious mental illness that makes it difficult to carry out major life activities. The rate among children is even higher: 1 in 13 suffers from a mental illness that limits participation in daily activities, according to findings by the California Health Care Foundation.

 

SB 1019  also creates a competitive grant program to support partnerships between counties and local education agencies that include crisis outreach services by Medi-Cal providers for students with behavioral and emotional needs.

The Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013 was aimed at expanding the state’s ability to provide crisis intervention assistance, including as crisis stabilization, rehabilitative services, mobile crisis support teams, and triage personnel.