Reimagining California’s Approach to Children’s Behavioral Health

An initiative to achieve health equity and healthy development for California’s children, youth, and families

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Our Vision

All children in California receive the support they need for healthy development and social and emotional well-being.

We Need a Better Approach

Consider the Numbers

Only5%
of children with Medi‑Cal receive a behavioral health service
Only35%
of youth in California who report needing mental health support actually receive it
43rd
is California’s ranking in providing behavioral, social and developmental screenings, which are key to identifying early signs of challenges
70%
of youth involved in California’s juvenile justice system have unmet behavioral health needs and youth of color are over‑represented

The Crisis is Real

104%
increase in inpatient visits for suicide, suicidal ideation and self injury for ages 1‑17
50%
increase in mental health hospital days for children
61%
increase in the rate of self‑reported mental health needs

Changing Our Systems to Improve Child Well-Being is our Collective Responsibility

The Children’s Trust seeks to reimagine the way California supports children’s healthy development and social and emotional well-being. It’s not about providing more of the same. It’s about transforming services across systems, and scaling them to meet the needs of our communities. Our briefs give you the facts and propose a path for change.

Now Is The Time For School-Centered Mental Health Reform

More than 60% of California’s children in public schools rely on Medi-Cal for their healthcare needs—physical, mental, and social and emotional. This number is increasing with the widening income gap caused by COVID-19.

Schools must be at the heart of our efforts to connect with and heal children and youth, including scaling solutions that address the youth mental health crisis.

And yet California is among the worst in the nation to claim Federal funds—Medicaid—to support our children’s mental and emotional health.

This brief and the accompanying presentation presents 5 models, and a step-by-step guide, for education leaders to claim millions of dollars of Medicaid funding to increase supports for the social and emotional needs of students.

Our Framework for Solutions

The Trust’s Framework for Solutions simplifies the immense complexity of reinventing California’s approach to children’s healthy development, by focusing on three core strategies: 1) maximize funding; 2) expand access and participation; and 3) reinvent systems.

These three strategies are centered on Equity + Justice, recognizing that if we don’t address root causes, including structural and systemic racism, we cannot achieve, sustain nor scale our vision of health equity and healthy development for California’s children, youth, and families.

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