With kids across California headed back to school, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 18 unveiled California’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health to ensure all California kids, parents and communities have increased access to mental health and substance use services.
Nationally, kids are reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety at record rates and are considering or attempting suicide at historic levels. In California, about one-third of seventh and ninth graders and half of 11th graders experienced “chronic sadness” in the 2020-2021 school year, and it’s estimated that one in 10 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 suffered from at least one major depressive episode in the last year, according to the governor. Suicide rates for California youth ages 10 to 18 increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020, he said.
California is taking urgent action to address the crisis, Newsom added. For kids and families needing help, some elements of the plan are already available to all California kids, including the Children’s Mental Health Resources Hub, which offers kids and parents a central hub for a variety of resources, including several support hotlines, CalHOPE and informational guides on suicide and depression warning signs.
Newsom unveiled the plan at McLane High School in Fresno, which provides social emotional support services for students with a support staff made up of psychologists, social workers and welfare specialists. Over the past decade, the Fresno Unified School District has increased mental health staffing from around 50 to more than 200 professionals. The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health provides funding to schools across the state to offer the same kind of resources as McLane and Fresno Unified.
“Mental and behavioral health is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” Newsom said. “As other states take away resources to support kids’ mental health, California is doubling down with the most significant overhaul of our mental health system in state history. We’re investing billions of dollars to ensure every California child has better access to comprehensive mental health and substance use services. The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health is premised on a very simple belief: every single kid deserves to have their mental health supported. That’s the California Way – putting our kids first.”
The governor also signed Assembly Bill 2508 by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) to better define the role of school counselors that recognizes the importance of access to mental health.
Over the last three years, California has launched an overhaul of the state’s mental health system – investing $4.7 billion to boost coverage options and public awareness so all children and youth are routinely screened, supported and served, Newsom said. The funding creates new virtual platforms and establishes a new pipeline for the mental health workforce, adding 40,000 new mental health workers in the state.
“As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain and feeling powerless to help. And that’s the case for far too many families around the country with children struggling with serious issues such as depression and anxiety without access to the care they need,” First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom said. “In California, we take the mental health and wellbeing of our children seriously, and we’re tackling this problem head-on with significant investments in the infrastructure of the state’s mental health system. And for those looking for support today, California’s mental health resource hub for youth is connecting parents, caregivers, educators and children with the resources and support kids need to improve their mental health and build healthy wellness habits and practices that will help them thrive.”
For information, visit gov.ca.gov.
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