Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a new plan to overhaul California's mental health system for children.
The state's Master Plan for Kids' Mental Health lays out proposals to increase access to mental health and substance abuse services, including adding 40,000 new workers in mental health fields. The overhaul of the state's mental health system in recent years comes with a price tag of $4.7 billion, according to the governor's office.
The plan comes as new school years are beginning and children nationally are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression at record rates, Newsom's office said. Those considering or attempting suicide are also at high levels.
Newsom's office said that in California, about one-third of seventh- and ninth-graders experienced chronic sadness in the 2020-21 school year, while about 42% of 11th-graders did, according to the California Healthy Kids Survey. Suicide rates from 2019 to 2020 in California also increased by 20%.
"Mental and behavioral health is one of the greatest challenges of our time. 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," Newsom said.
"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," he said.
The plan, which is aimed at increasing access to mental health resources and services for anyone 25 years old or younger, is expected to boost coverage options and public awareness of mental health issues. Newsom hopes that the plan will allow all youth to be routinely screened and treated for mental health issues.
The additional 40,000 new workers are expected to boost the resources available to young Californians, in addition to the funding and creation of new virtual platforms with resources.
Newsom's office said that parts of the plan are already in place, including the Children's Mental Health Resource Hub, which outlines resources for children and parents, including access to hotlines like the Youth Crisis Line and CalHOPE, a hotline for emotional support due to the pandemic, and informational guides on suicide and depression warning signs. The hub can be accessed at chhs.ca.gov.
The plan comes alongside Newsom's signing of Assembly Bill 2508, led by Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, that defines the roles of school counselors and the importance of mental health support.
California's Master Plan for Kids' Mental Health also calls for the state to provide Medi-Cal coverage for parent-child services, expand treatment opportunities at clinics and train teachers in mental health issues, Newsom said.
The governor's office said that the mental health overhaul plan will work in conjunction with previous investments to bolster the state's mental health care system, including $4.1 billion on a community schools strategy, $5 billion on a Medi-Cal initiative, CalAIM, for low-income kids and $1.4 billion to build a more diverse health care workforce.
Newsom announced the plan Thursday at McLane High School in Fresno, where he commended the school district's expansion from 50 mental health workers to 200 over the past decade.
Senior Aliyah Barajas commended the plan's announcement.
"I truly believe every student would benefit from a connection with a mental health counselor and I am hopeful we will continue to see a positive change from investments in social emotional support for our students and I know Governor Gavin Newsom can provide students with the much needed resources to successfully navigate life," Barajas said.