California Launches New Program for School-based Mental Health

The California Legislature has set aside $50 million this year for schools who are willing to try new ways of detecting and preventing mental illness in the school. The state is calling on school districts to fill in the gaps in mental health care and treatment for children and teens. The Mental Health Student Services Act establishes a program where county behavioral health departments can team up with local schools to establish campus-based mental health services. The goal of the program is to recognize and treat mental illness before it becomes severe and disabling. The hope is to prevent suicides, homelessness, and suffering.

California lawmakers have been working towards moving mental health services from the clinic to the classroom for years. It is believed that services provided at school could be the first line of defense by recognizing mental health conditions early. Most mental health conditions present themselves when a person is in their early to late teens. This makes schools the perfect place to detect illness early.

School Support

The legislation has been encouraged by school leaders who recognize that a student’s mental health can affect their academic performance. Many schools across the state have already initiated mental health programs on their campuses. The hope is that many more schools will seek funding to establish their own programs. Schools should play a larger role in the overall wellness of their students, and integrated mental health programs can go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

Lawmakers believe there will be a positive response from schools and that many school districts will seek to participate. Schools in California have long provided some degree of mental health care in the form of special education, but there is a growing consensus that it is not enough. Some people may think that it’s unusual for schools to be involved in mental health care. However, school is where children spend much of their time and are being closely observed. It is an ideal location for services to be provided.

Programs already in place at some schools have been demonstrating success. The Mountain View-Los Altos High School District employs more than half a dozen therapists to help hundreds of students. Students are treated primarily for anxiety and depression. The school also uses initiatives such as anonymous referral boxes which give school employees tips on students who may need some help.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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