New California license plate would support mental health services in schools

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

A new, specialized license plate would provide millions of dollars in extra funding for mental health programs in California public schools, under a bill recently introduced in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 21, introduced by Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, would require the California Department of Education to apply for the specialized license plate through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Motorists could select the new license plate when they renew their vehicle registration, with fees going toward the Department of Education for student mental health programs such as wellness centers.

Proceeds from the license plate, which was designed by a high school student in San Ramon, would support mental health services in California public schools. The campaign was inspired in part by the death of Colin Wiseman, a Contra Costa County 15-year-old who committed suicide in 2013.

The Department of Motor Vehicles estimates the license plate would generate between $4 million and $10 million a year.

“There is a definite lack of preventative mental health programs available for our students in California. The lack of adequate funding continues to create a barrier to care especially for those in underserved communities,” said Gail Miller, president of BeingwellCA, a nonprofit that advocates for improved mental health services for children in California. “Our goal with the license plate is to help fund much needed Wellness Centers on each high school campus in California.”

California has one of the highest student-to-counselor ratios in the country, according to the American School Counselor Association. In 2018-19, there were 612 students for every counselor in K-12 public schools. The association recommends a ratio of 250:1. Funds from the license plate sales would pay for more counselors as well as other mental health services.

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