Gavin Newsom opposes veto to expand student mental health funding

Gavin Newsom opposes veto to expand student mental health funding

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday opposed a bill aimed at helping children with private insurance access mental health care at school, saying the program would cost too much.

Newsom was an outspoken advocate of increasing mental health care in schools, and argued that parts of the bill would have duplicated work already being done by his administration. But groups that help provide mental health services in schools say that while the governor’s work is positive, it is not enough to address the gap faced by children with private health insurance.

Robin Detterman of Seneca, an organization that provides mental health services in about 80 Bay Area schools, said the state has made great strides in providing care. children on Medi-Cal, which insures an estimated 40% of California children, according to the California Health Care Foundation.

Determann said children with Medi-Cal can see a therapist at their school. But children with private insurance should seek care from outside providers, a process that could take longer, she said. Parents usually need to get a referral, and then may have to wait for an appointment with a therapist, if they can find one that has room to accept new patients.

“Young people can experience a huge gap where things can go very wrong before they can reach or receive help,” Dettermann said.

Bill AB552, It aims to create what Deutermann described as a “temporary” measure that would allow children with private insurance to start receiving treatment through their school while their families work to secure a therapist through their private insurance.

Newsom held an event in Fresno last month to promote increased funding in the state budget. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a mental health crisis in California’s schools, and his administration is committed to fixing it.

“What we have now is a fragmented system, a completely separate system, a system that has clearly failed,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to change that.”

He noted the billions he directed to boost mental health coverage in California schools. This money funds mental health screenings at school, health care workforce development, a Children’s Mental Health Resource Center and expanding child mental health services through Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for low-income people.

Providing timely mental health care to students is essential, said Chris Stoner-Mertz, executive director of the California Alliance for Children and Family Services.

“On behalf of 160 community organizations serving California children and families, we are deeply disappointed in Governor Newsom’s veto of AB 552,” she wrote in a statement. California’s youth are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis. … Delays in meeting the needs of our children will allow the crisis to worsen.”

Improving access to mental health care has been a central pillar of Newsom’s agenda. Last week, he signed a bill to implement his administration’s plan to get adults with severe mental illness into treatment, known as Care Court.

On Monday, Newsom said parts of the student mental health bill were too expensive for the state to fund.

in Veto message on AB 552, Newsom said that state revenues did not reach the rate that state leaders expected, despite an expected state budget surplus of $97.5 billion. He noted that bills passed by the legislature this year, including AB552, would increase government spending by $10 billion a year outside the state budget that he and lawmakers have already negotiated. He said additional spending plans need to be negotiated through the budget process.

He wrote, “While I share the author’s goal of addressing the mental health needs of children and young adults, the partnership programs proposed under this Act will replicate the requirements for school behavioral health services being developed.” “In addition, I am concerned that this law will result in significant one-time and ongoing costs in the millions of dollars.”

Sophia Polag is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: Tweet embed

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