The Mental Health Student Services Act
The Mental Health Student Services Act provides grants for partnerships between county mental health agencies and local education agencies to deliver school-based mental health services to young people and their families. These partnerships support outreach to identify early signs of unmet mental health needs, reduce stigma and discrimination, and prevent unmet mental health needs from becoming severe and disabling.
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The Mental Health Student Services Act specifies that at a minimum grant recipients must provide on-campus mental health services include suicide prevention, drop-out prevention, placement assistance, service plans for students in need of ongoing services, and outreach to high-risk youth, including foster youth, youth who identify as LGBTQ+, and youth who have been expelled or suspended from school.
Authorized by Senate Bill 75 as part of the State’s 2019 Budget Act, the Mental Health Student Services Act allocated $40 million one-time and $10 million ongoing funding for school-county mental health partnerships.
SB 75 limited applicants to counties, cities, or multicity mental health agencies, or consortiums of those entities, working in partnership with one or more school districts and either a county office of education or a charter school.
The law made funding available in two categories: funding for counties with existing school mental health partnerships and funding for counties developing new partnerships. It further designated grant eligibility based on county size (small, medium, or large).
The Commission received 38 grant applications from 40 counties, which includes two multi-county collaboratives. Twenty were to support existing partnerships (Category 1), and 18 were to support new and emerging partnerships (Category 2). Eighteen grants were awarded – 10 for Category 1 and 8 for Category 2.
Category 1: Fresno, Humboldt, Kern, Mendocino, Orange, Placer, San Luis Obispo, Solano, Tulare, Ventura
Category 2: Calaveras, Madera, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Tehama, Trinity-Modoc, Yolo
In the fall of 2019, the Commission held listening sessions in Sacramento, Richmond, Fresno, and Los Angeles on the Mental Health Student Services Act. The purpose was to make local behavioral health and education leaders aware of the opportunity to receive these funds, the limitations on the funds, and the anticipated timelines for awarding funding.
Participants raised concerns that communities with existing partnerships may have an advantage in responding to a Request for Application compared to those with no existing collaboration. Local school and mental health leaders questioned whether $50 million was enough to respond to local needs and encouraged the Commission to consider making additional resources available.
In response, the Commission approved $75 million in funding over four fiscal years, with funds reserved both for counties with and without existing school mental health partnerships and for small, medium, and large counties.
The Mental Health Student Services Act seeks to foster partnerships between educational and county mental health entities to provide school-based mental health services to children, youth and their families.
Partnership programs should include the following goals:
- Preventing mental illnesses from becoming severe and disabling
- Improving timely access to services for underserved populations
- Providing outreach to families, employers, primary health care providers, and others to promote recognition of early signs of potentially severe and disabling mental illnesses
- Reducing stigma associated with the diagnosis of a mental illness or seeking mental health services
- Reducing discrimination against people with unmet mental health needs
- Preventing negative outcomes in the targeted populations, including, but not limited to:
- Suicide and attempted suicide
- School failure or dropout
- Prolonged suffering
- Removal of children from their homes
- Involuntary health detention
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