After promoting funding for student mental health, Newsom vetoes bill to expand services

After promoting funding for student mental health, Newsom vetoes bill to expand services

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday vetoed a bill to help children with private insurance access mental health care at school, saying the program would cost too much.

Newsom has been a strong advocate for increasing mental health care in schools, and argued that parts of the bill would have duplicated work his administration is already doing. But groups that help provide mental health services in schools say that while the governor’s work is positive, he’s not doing enough to close the gap children face with private health insurance.

According to the California Health Care Foundation.

Children with Medi-Cal can see a therapist at their school, Detterman said. But children with private insurance must seek care from outside providers, a process that can take significantly longer, she said. Parents usually have to get a referral and then may have to wait to get an appointment with a therapist, if they can find one with room to accept new patients.

“Young people can really experience a big gap where things can get worse before they can access or receive help,” Detterman said.

The bill, AB 552, was intended to create what Detterman described as a “stop-gap” measure that would allow children with private insurance to begin receiving therapy through their school while their families recover. try to find them a therapist covered by their own insurance.

Newsom hosted an event in Fresno last month to promote increased funding for the state budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the mental health crisis in California schools, he said, and his administration is committed to addressing it.

“What we have now is a fragmented system, a completely disconnected system, a system that has obviously failed,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to change that.”

He pointed to the billions of state dollars he has directed to bolster mental health coverage in California schools. The money funds school-based mental health screenings, health workforce development, a children’s mental health resource center, and an expansion of children’s mental health services through Medi-Cal, the health insurance program of the state for low-income people.

Chris Stoner-Mertz, executive director of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, said timely mental health care for students is essential.

“On behalf of 160 community organizations serving California children and families, we are deeply disappointed with Governor Newsom’s veto of AB 552,” she wrote in a statement. “Young people in California are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis. The needs of children will allow the crisis to worsen.

Improving access to mental health care has been a key part of Newsom’s program. Last week, he signed a bill to implement his administration’s plan to get seriously mentally ill adults into treatment, known as the Care Court.

Newsom said Monday that parts of the student mental health bill were too expensive to be funded by the state.

In his AB 552 veto message, Newsom said state revenue has not kept pace with state leaders predicted, despite a projected budget surplus of $97.5 billion. He noted that bills passed by the Legislative Assembly this year, including AB 552, would increase state spending by $10 billion a year outside of the state budget that he and lawmakers have announced. already negotiated. Additional spending plans must be negotiated as part of the budget process, he said.

“While I share the author’s goal of meeting the mental health needs of children and youth, the partnership programs proposed under this bill would duplicate the requirements of behavioral health services by developing school environment,” he wrote. “Furthermore, I’m concerned that this bill will create significant one-time and ongoing multi-million dollar costs.”

Sophia Bollag is editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: sophia.bollag@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @SophiaBollag

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