CCT’s Youth Advisory Board write legislators in support of bill that would increase equitable mental health access for California youth


Hannah Saunders


On Tuesday, the Youth Advisory Board of California Children’s Trust wrote a letter to legislators in proud support of Assembly Bill 665, which addresses barriers that youth on Medi-Cal face when seeking mental health services. About half of all Californian youth are on Medi-Cal, with the majority being youth of color. AB 665 will first be heard on March 28th by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.

California Children’s Trust is a statewide initiative that addresses the children’s mental health crisis in California by reimagining behavioral health supports and services through an equity and social justice lens. The Youth Advisory Board was co-developed with its five founding youth members, and the board guides the trust’s work through the voice, experience, and expertise of young leaders. 


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“Young people who rely on Medi-Cal for their physical and mental healthcare are often those who need it most,” stated the letter. “We know, because some of us are those young people, and all of us know those young people, and we sit with them in their times of pain and isolation.”

According to the California Health Interview Survey, from 2019 to 2021 about one-third of California youth ages 12-17 experienced serious psychological distress. Current law allows youth ages 12 and up to consent to outpatient mental health services without the consent of a parent or guardian, but that differs for youth who have Medi-Cal due to language in the Family Code. 

Youth on Medi-Cal are only allowed to consent to services if they present a danger to themselves or others, or are alleged survivors of incest and child abuse—all criteria that youth who do not have Medi-Cal do not have to meet.

“Today in California, a 13-year-old can consent to services for contraception and sexually transmitted infections, but because of this policy, she is unable to consent to the mental health services that so many young people need,” Youth Advisory Board founding member Kassy Poles stated in the letter. “If a young person can seek care for their reproductive needs at age 13, why would we set up barriers for them to address their mental health—when the two can be so intertwined?”

AB 665, sponsored by Asm. Wendy Carrillo (D – Los Angeles), would align the Health and Safety Code and the Family Code sections that contain consent criteria so that youth on Medi-Cal are not required to meet the higher standards.

The Youth Advisory Board letter explains how youth who are seeking services for mental health already face widespread stigma, in addition to centuries of systemic oppression through government programs, which create concerns for families who are deciding whether to engage in mental health services.

“Providers find that obtaining consent for a youth who needs mental health services is often complicated by the parent or caretakers’ beliefs about mental healthcare,” stated the letter. “Over half [of] surveyed LGBTQ+ youth reported that not being able to get permission from their parent or guardian was sometimes or always a barrier to accessing mental health services.”

The Youth Advisory Board brought up how barring providers from billing Medi-Cal for certain services without parental or guardian consent has proven to be overwhelming when parents and caretakers are unwilling or unable to provide consent, and may prevent Californian youth from accessing mental health services altogether. 

“I have always felt that California’s mental health system was not created for me. It doesn’t understand what I need as a young Black woman—I felt it when I was a kid, and I’m not sure much has changed. It pains and angers me to think that young Black girls have yet one more barrier thrown in front of them, keeping them from being able to ask for what they know is best,” another Youth Advisory Board founding member Jade Davis said. “AB 665 can make a big difference for young Black girls—and other young people on Medi-Cal.”

Davis stated how she was not shocked by the CDC’s recent report on girls’ mental health, which relays how Black students were more likely to attempt suicide in comparison to Hispanic, Asian, or white students. 

The advisory board’s letter explained how creating standards that allow youth on Medi-Cal to access mental health services without added barriers would align with California’s vision for equitable access to healthcare for youth. 

“We cannot allow a policy to subject young people in need to even more stigma, and force them back into the darkness of isolation,” said Aria Rani Sindledecker, another Youth Advisory Board founding member.