California Department of Public Health releases RFP for campaign to reduce behavioral health stigma for youth


Hannah Saunders


This week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced it is seeking requests for proposals (RFPs) to support the state’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative—a key measure in California’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health—through public awareness campaigns. Prevention and early intervention can assist with reducing the risk of youth and children developing serious mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) challenges.

The goals of the campaign include educating the public and raising awareness to normalize and support prevention and early intervention of MEB health issues. Through the RFP process, $33 million will be made available immediately, with an additional $15 million in the coming months. The rest of the funds will trickle out over the next several years.


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“The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative is transforming how we support California’s youth and today we are requesting proposals from qualified agencies to help conduct these campaigns,” Deputy Director of CDPH’s Office of Health Equity, Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna, said. “With these campaigns, we plan to focus on promoting well-being and preventing behavioral health challenges, including substance abuse disorders, among California’s youth.” 

The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative was announced in July of 2021 and consists of a $4.4 billion investment to enhance, expand, and redesign behavioral health systems that support children and youth. The goal of the initiative is to develop equitable, timely, and accessible behavioral health services and supports for all children, youth, and families.

The initiative falls under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, which works to ensure that many needed services are covered under insurance and makes it easier for schools to provide prevention and treatment, among other provisions. A master plan report published in August last year stated that over 284,000 youth in California cope with major depression, while 66% of children with depression do not receive treatment.

California has been ramping up funding towards youth MEB healthcare. In early December, Newsom announced $480.5 million in grants towards behavioral health for youth and supports improving the mental and behavioral health infrastructure, such as expanding the capacity of treatment facilities for children. 

CDPH’s Office of Health Equity is accepting proposals from qualified multimedia agencies for the campaign, with applications due on February 21st at 3 pm. To reach diverse populations across the state, the campaigns must present impactful multicultural and multilingual messaging and feature culturally and linguistically appropriate, and scientifically accurate information. Campaigns must also be designed and delivered in partnership with California Health & Human Services Agency Departments; education community partners, including early childhood, K-12, and higher education; subject matter experts; other state agencies and community partners; and children, youth, and their families.

Another requirement of the campaign is reducing overall health disparities, with a particular focus on African American and Black people, Native Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latinos, and LGBTQ+ communities, which are the five populations most impacted by MEB health challenges. To address disparities and inequities throughout diverse communities in the state, the campaign will focus on empowering communities to build on their own cultural best practices The campaign must make special considerations for transitional-age youth, people with disabilities, justice and foster care involved youth, and those living in rural areas. 

“Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of diagnosable mental illnesses begin by age 14, three-fourths begin by the age 24, and most substance use begins in adolescence, emphasizing the need to strengthen prevention and early identification and intervention services,” stated the RFP solicitation document.

According to the RFP campaign document, Black youth in California experienced the greatest increase in the rate of suicide deaths—a 28% increase from 2019 to 2020. The document also states that in 2021, 31% of Native and Indigenous and LGBTQ youth, 21% of Black and LGBTQ youth, and 18% of Latino and LGBTQ youth attempted suicide in the US. 

Following the RFP deadline, interviews will take place from March 13th to 24th, and the date for the notice of intent to award is yet to be determined.