Governor Newsom Unveils New Plan to Transform Kids’ Mental Health

Nationally, kids are reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety at record rates and are considering or attempting suicide at historic levels. Here in California, about one-third of 7th and 9th graders and half of 11th graders experienced chronic sadness in the 2020-2021 school year and it’s estimated that 1 in 10 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 suffered from at least one major depressive episode in the last year. Suicide rates for California youth ages 10 to 18 increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020.

California is taking urgent action to address this crisis. For kids and families needing help now, some elements of the Governor’s plan are already available to all California kids, including the Children’s Mental Health Resources Hub, which offers kids and parents a central hub for a variety of resources, including several support hotlines, CalHOPE and informational guides on suicide and depression warning signs.

The Governor unveiled the plan at McLane High School in Fresno, which provides social emotional support services for students with a dedicated social emotional support staff made up of psychologists, social workers, and welfare specialists. Over the past decade, the Fresno Unified School District has increased mental health staffing from around 50 to more than 200 professionals. The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health provides funding to schools across the state to offer the same kind of resources McLane and Fresno Unified does.

“Mental and behavioral health is one of the greatest challenges of our time. As other states take away resources to support kids’ mental health, California is doubling down with the most significant overhaul of our mental health system in state history,” Governor Newsom said. “We’re investing billions of dollars to ensure every California child has better access to comprehensive mental health and substance use services. The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health is premised on a very simple belief: every single kid deserves to have their mental health supported. That’s the California Way – putting our kids first.”

The Governor also signed AB 2508 by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) to better define the role of school counselors that recognizes the importance of access to mental health.

Over the last three years, California has launched an historic overhaul of the state’s mental health system – investing $4.7 billion to boost coverage options and public awareness so all children and youth are routinely screened, supported, and served. The funding creates new virtual platforms and establishes a new pipeline for the mental health workforce, adding 40,000 new mental health workers in the state.

Other investments include:

  • $4.1 billion on a community schools strategy to connect kids and families to essential services including health screenings, meals and more.
  • $5 billion on a Medi-Cal initiative, CalAIM, to better integrate health and behavioral health services for low-income kids.
  • $1.4 billion to build a more diverse healthcare workforce that expands our capacity to meet the health needs of Californians, including children and families.

“As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain and feeling powerless to help. And that’s the case for far too many families around the country with children struggling with serious issues such as depression and anxiety without access to the care they need,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “In California, we take the mental health and wellbeing of our children seriously, and we’re tackling this problem head-on with significant investments in the infrastructure of the state’s mental health system. And for those looking for support today, California’s mental health resource hub for youth is connecting parents, caregivers, educators, and children with the resources and support kids need to improve their mental health and build healthy wellness habits and practices that will help them thrive.”

“I truly believe every student would benefit from a connection with a mental health counselor and I am hopeful we will continue to see a positive change from investments in social emotional support for our students and I know Governor Gavin Newsom can provide students with the much needed resources to successfully navigate life,” said Aliyah Barajas, a senior at McLane High School.

The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health outlines action across three key pillars:

  1. Healthy Minds for California Kids
    • Provide Medi-Cal coverage for parent-child services
    • Make it easier for schools to provide prevention and treatment
    • De-stigmatize mental health support for kids
    • Offer additional resources for parents
  2. Rebuilding California’s Mental Health Systems
    • Create new virtual platforms
    • Expand early interventions
    • More school counselors
    • Expand clinic and treatment slots
    • Develop a suicide prevention program
  3. Developing a Mental Health Workforce
    • Hire, train, and engage 40,000 new mental health workers
    • Expand remote access to services
    • Training for teachers

The plan announced today will make it easier than ever before for kids to access critical mental health and substance use services – in their schools, in their homes and in their communities. Read the full Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health here.

If you or a friend or loved one is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org/.

This press release was provided by the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom.