What’s in California’s 2021 Budget?

Major Investments to Address Youth Behavioral Health

In June and early July, the Governor and Legislature finalized the 2021-22 state budget with major investments for schools and communities to address behavioral health amid a mental health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative: $4 billion to transform behavioral services for children and youth. The goal of this initiative is to better connect children and youth to behavioral health care through the creation of an online platform, investment in school-based services, and expanding the infrastructure for providing behavioral health care. This includes a $400 million Medi-Cal Managed Care Incentive program to increase school-based services and $550 million for additional school-linked behavioral health partnerships.
  • Community Schools: $2.8 billion to support grants for up to 1,400 local educational agencies (more than 60 percent of local educational agencies statewide) to convert school campuses into full-service community schools, with mental health, family, and social services.
  • Mental Health Student Services Act Partnership Grant Program: increases funding to $205 million to fund partnerships between county behavioral health departments and schools.
  • Office of School Health Programs: $700,000 to start and continue an office in the California Department of Education (CDE) to support school-based Medi-Cal programs and health services. This is a direct result of ongoing legislative efforts by the California School-Based Health Alliance and our partners advocating for this infrastructure investment at CDE. 
  • Telehealth: a commitment to maintain pandemic-related telehealth flexibilities, including audio-only modalities, for federally-qualified health centers through December 31, 2022. 

SBHCs Should Be Central to Investments in Behavioral Health Services for Children & Youth

The California School-Based Health Alliance is thrilled by these investments that advance health equity and justice. We are also engaged in advocacy to ensure school-based health centers are central to these proposed investments.

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SBHCs are an ideal model for delivering behavioral health services in school settings for the following reasons:

  • Students use SBHCs. One study found that students with access to SBHCs were 21 times more likely to visit SBHCs for mental health treatment than anywhere else.
  • Unlike other school-based mental health providers, SBHCs provide integrated physical and behavioral health.
  • SBHCs leverage Medi-Cal providers and coordinate care.
  • SBHCs are effective at providing prevention and early intervention services.
  • SBHCs increase equitable access to care. California SBHCs are predominantly located in schools where a majority of students are low income and students of color.