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Youth Advocates are Speaking Out to Reimagine our Mental Health System

Dear Friends and Allies,

This is a moment for transformation led by youth advocates—those with lived experience—to reimagine a mental health system centered on equity and justice. While concerns remain with the state's proposals on both Telehealth and CalAIM, there are some hopeful signs of reform on the horizon including:

  • $700 million proposed in the Governor’s budget to support student mental health in schools.
  • The updated CalAIM proposal which advocates for the removal of a diagnosis for treatment, clarifies EPSDT protections for youth under age 21, and streamlines mental health documentation.
  • DHCS’s Post-COVID Telehealth Policy Recommendations and proposed Trailer Bill Language are a strong start to increasing youth-tailored and technology-driven mental health access.
  • implementation of the new family therapy benefit.

But this optimism and urgency for transformation come at a time of growing crisis:

  • California has seen a 151% increase in inpatient visits for suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-injury for children ages 10-14.
  • Accelerated by the pandemic, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland reported suicide attempts in the fall of 2020 were double that of 2019 and Rady Children’s has seen a 1,746% increase in Behavioral Health emergency room utilization between 2011 and 2019, (before the pandemic's impact).
  • Black youth are disproportionately impacted, with a suicide rate twice that of their white peers.

And despite these red flags, California ranks in the lowest 10% of states for providing critical early behavioral, social, and developmental screenings, and 44th in the nation in access to mental health services for children.

“This is a call to action to all decision-makers—elected officials, nonprofit and corporate leaders, leaders of public agencies, and anyone else in a position to decide the quantity and quality of services and supports our young people who are struggling deserve.”  Excerpt from “The Joyest Sunshine of Liberation”, by Jevon Wilkes, Executive Director, California Coalition for Youth and CCT’s Director of Youth Engagement.

Youth Raising Awareness

Youth are letting us know loud and clear what they need in a reimagined mental health system. Amplify their voices:

Nothing about me without me. Join @CalYouthConn youth leaders in advocating for their vision to change California’s youth mental health system

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The California Coalition for Youth presents new data on the pandemic’s impact on youth homelessness. Read the results of the survey.

And Jevon Wilkes, CCY’s Executive Director and CCT’s Director of Youth Engagement comments on the increase in youth homelessness in this EdSource article.

Children thrive with stability. Talk doesn’t cut it. Someone needs to give a damn says Jevon Wilkes @calyouth exec director on the needs of youth experiencing homelessness in CA

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Taking Action with Youth Advocates

Youth Advocates Join CCT for Public Testimony, Assembly Health Hearing on the DHCS Telehealth Proposal

Following on our recently released report, NO GOING BACK: Providing Telemental Health Services to California Children and Youth After the Pandemic, CCT Fellows Julia and Gemini shared their lived experience to amplify key recommendations and advocate for the inclusion of phone and text messaging for all Medi-Cal providers in DHCS’s Telehealth proposal.

“If I’m struggling on any particular day with my issues, I reach out to my therapist first via text because I know she’ll get back to me as soon as she can. She will text with me and stay on the thread as long as I need to get stable and go on with my day.”
(Gemini, Oakland, 20 years old) Full testimony.

CCT Engages Youth in Historic Medi-Cal Managed Care Re-Procurement Process

In the coming weeks DHCS will release a draft MCP Request for Proposal and contract template—the next step in the re-procurement process, the first in nearly 17 years. CCT and our youth advocates will provide input during the public comment period, and share perspectives and recommendations during the March 4 webinar (register below). CCT is pleased to also release a primer on Medi-Cal managed care and mental health services to inform advocates and increase support.

Youth Advocates Join Critical Conversations

UPCOMING WEBINAR: Navigating Youth Mental Health Services in Medi-Cal Managed Care and Schools
March 4th 10:00 -11:30am
CCT is hosting this webinar to provide an overview of Medi-Cal managed care in California and explore the intersection of mental health and education, including financing options. Youth and school-based counselors will offer perspectives on how mental health is currently delivered in schools and where improvements can be made. Participants will also learn about opportunities to participate in the re-procurement process. Register.

ICYMI: CCT’s February 2 webinar. CCT Youth Advocates, Chezia Tarleton and Levi Deatherage, shared their lived experience that supported the calls for change outlined in the recently released report, “Meeting the Moment: Addressing California’s Growing Youth Mental Health Needs.”  The report details recommendations for how California can better fulfill its obligation under the Medi-Cal program to provide mental health services and support for our children and youth. View webinar video and presentation materials.

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