Gov. Gavin Newsom was in Fresno on Thursday to announce the state’s $4.7 billion investment in mental health and substance abuse services for children and young people, which he hopes will eventually lead to less need for crisis care, and instead focus on early intervention.
Speaking at McLane High School, Newsom said the goal for California’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health is to train 40,000 more behavioral health professionals over the next few years, and establish universal screening and support services for everyone zero to 25 years old.
Those who work for at least two years as a counselor or other mental health professional would be eligible for student loan forgiveness.
“What we are announcing here today is just one component of our comprehensive strategy to systematically connect dots and address the issue of mental health and behavioral health once and for all in this state,” Newsom said.
Other components include $4.1 billion in funding to create community schools and spending $5 million to reform Medi-Cal to be more inclusive of behavioral health needs.
Newsom said he made the announcement at McLane, part of the Fresno Unified School District, to spotlight its model mental health supports. The district went from staffing just 50 mental health professionals to over 250 this year, according to Superintendent Bob Nelson.
“We find our kids are bouncing back academically much quicker than they are from a social-emotional perspective,” Nelson said. “Most of those staff are located right here on our school sites instead of being held centrally so that they are interacting with kids every day.”
Newsom also took time to sign AB 2508, which better defines the role of school counselors to provide mental health services.
Suicide rates for California youth age 10 to 18 increased 20% in 2019-20 — before the pandemic added even more stress, according to the governor’s office, and 66% of kids with depression do not receive treatment.
In addition to training a workforce, the funding will be spent to destigmatize students’ seeking mental health services and teach parents how to cope with the mental health needs of their families.
“The last two years, there has been a stacking of stress the likes of which none of us could have conceived,” Newsom said. “We’re not proposing this (initiative), we’re doing this.”