Newsom allocates $480.5 million in grants to address youth behavioral health


Hannah Saunders


Governor Gavin Newsom announced this week that $480.5 million in grants will go towards mental and behavioral health for youth. The grants will support 54 projects across the state of California to improve the mental and behavioral health infrastructure, including expanding the capacity of treatment facilities that serve young Californians. 

The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) is releasing $2.1 billion through six grant rounds targeting gaps in behavioral health infrastructure, including youth behavioral health, which is round four.


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“We’re overhauling our mental health system to connect young Californians with the care and support they need,” Newsom said. “Too many Californians are struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. This funding will support critical mental health and substance use disorder treatment facilities that have committed to serving the diverse range of children and youth covered by Medi-Cal.” 

This initiative falls under the governor’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, and the investments will provide grant funding to construct new facilities–—while expanding existing facilities—that assist children, youth, transition-age youth and perinatal individuals with mental health or substance use disorder (SUD).

The grants will provide support to Californian adults aged 25 and younger, including pregnant and postpartum individuals and their children, and transition-age youth and their families.

The 54 projects will increase care through community wellness and youth prevention centers, outpatient treatment for substance use disorders, school-linked health centers, and outpatient community health clinics.

The investment will fund projects including:

  • $57.4 million for a Psychiatric Acute Care Hospital. In Los Angeles, the Kedren South Psychiatric Acute Care Hospital & Children’s Village will receive funding to cover an acute psychiatric care hospital with 36 beds.
  • $27.6 million will go towards treating SUD and create greater availability in Orange County. Adolescent residential treatment facilities for youth suffering from SUD will be expanded by Orange County Health Care Agency with 32 beds. Perinatal residential SUD will also have 24 beds, and community mental health clinic outpatient with 2,626 slots.
  • $7.9 million to fund a community mental health outpatient clinic in Hoopa. The facility will be managed by Yurok Youth Center and the grant funds 300 clinic slots, a community wellness and youth prevention center with 1,450 slots, an outpatient treatment for SUD with 27 slots, and a school-linked health center with 50 slots.

“With significant and innovative state and federal investments in homelessness, health care delivery reform, and the social safety net, California is addressing historic gaps to meet the growing demand of services and supports for children and youth across the state,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California Health & Human Services. 

According to Newsom’s office, rates of serious mental illness and SUD in California are highest for those aged 18-25. Rates of children and youth experiencing behavioral health conditions, youth emergency department visits for mental health concerns, and youth suicide attempts continue to rise. 

Newsom’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, published in August 2022, states that over 284,000 youth in California cope with major depression and that 66% of youth with depression in California do not receive treatment. 

Furthermore, suicide rates in California for youth aged 10-18 years increased by 20% between 2019-2020, according to the Master Plan. Part of the Master Plan consists of a proactive and responsive system of care, such as a virtual platform to increase accessibility for mental health assessments and intervention; intervene early so youth get care prior to conditions worsening; increasing the numbers of school counselors for students to have access to no-cost mental health services; expand treatment slots and clinics to allow more youth to receive care; and develop a targeted youth suicide prevention program. 

“With these grants we significantly increased outpatient capacity related to mental health and substance use disorder services for children and youth. Successful treatments for children and youth experiencing mental health and substance use disorders are evident in outpatient settings that integrate family support,” said Michelle Baass, Department of State Health Services Director. “These investments align with other state efforts around integration, such as California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal and the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative.”

Several Assembly bills have been prepared for the 2023-2024 legislative session that focus on youth well-being. Assembly Bill 5, The Safe and Supportive Schools Program, is an act relating to educational equality and states that teachers and employers of schools operated by districts, county offices of education, or charter schools, have tools and training to support and meet the needs of LGBTQ+ people. Another portion of this act includes ensuring that schools are safe and supportive for all pupils, teachers, and other certified employees. 

The Human Rights Campaign, an American LGBTQ+ advocacy group, analyzed findings from a 2020 CDC report. The analysis found that 31% of LGBTQ+ youth, 43% of transgender youth, and 40% of questioning youth had been bullied at school, compared to 16% of their non-LGBTQ+ peers. 

Further findings suggest that 24% of LGBTQ+ youth, 35% of transgender youth, and 41% of questioning youth skipped school due to feeling unsafe at or on their way to school, compared to 8% of non-LGBTQ+ youth. 

AB 10 would create state-recommended guidelines and would require the Instructional Quality Commission, an advisory body to the State Board of Education, to create policies and curriculum about body shaming to be implemented by school districts. 

Individuals may experience body shaming for various reasons, such as weight, body hair, food, clothing, and hair, among others, according to Very Well Mind. The article mentions how adolescents who are body shamed have significantly greater risks of depression, it may lead to an eating disorder, and can cause low self-esteem. Mental health concerns associated with body shaming include anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, depression, an increased risk for self harm or suicide, psychological distress, and a more negative quality of life due to body dissatisfaction. 

While existing California law allows for school districts, county offices of education, and charter school to provide emergency naloxone hydrochloride, or another opioid antagonist, AB 19 would require each individual public school operated by a school district, county office of education or charter school to maintain at least two doses of naloxone hydrochloride or another opioid antagonist. 

Under the proposal, the state would reimburse schools for the costs, although private and public elementary and secondary schools can voluntarily determine if that’s something they’d like to incorporate. If so, elementary and secondary schools would not receive state funding.