The Kennedy Forum applauds California Governor Gavin Newsom’s leadership in prioritizing mental health amid the state’s unexpected surplus, with a $4 billion proposed investment to support youth mental health in his revised budget.
Earlier this spring, The Kennedy Forum, Steinberg Institute, and Well Being Trust urged state leaders to address youth mental health as data continued to show alarming trends. The trauma, anxiety, grief, and social isolation that came with COVID-19 have certainly taken their toll. In fact, recent research from the Jed Foundation and Fluent shows more than half of all American teens have struggled with their mental health because of the pandemic, and two-thirds of parents reported their child recently experiencing a mental or emotional challenge.
Among the proposed investments included in Newsom’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative include:
- A public awareness campaign focused on prevention of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Preventing ACES can decrease risk for mental and physical health conditions, including depression and diabetes; reduce risky behaviors, including substance use; and improve education and employment potential.
- Investments in programs to treat early episodes of psychosis such as Coordinated Specialty Care, a recovery-oriented treatment intervention for people who have experienced their first episode of psychosis.
- Workforce development—hiring more school counselors and training psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers, psychiatry residents, and other providers on mental health and suicide prevention.
- Virtual platforms linking youth to treatment through screening, app-based support services, and increased access to care in areas that have a mental health provider shortage.
These are the types of investments needed to identify and treat mental health challenges early on, thus preventing more serious conditions later in life. The Kennedy Forum encourages California lawmakers to include the Governor’s proposed funding in the budget that the legislature must pass by June 15.
Other states should follow California’s lead in prioritizing youth mental health. Although the state’s unexpected budget surplus created a unique opportunity, all states have the $126 billion in emergency education funding contained in the American Rescue Plan Act, which can be used to support school-based mental health. After a year of disruptions and despair, students need this investment in mental health to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically.