County approves motion to expand youth access to mental health treatment

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – In an effort to improve the county’s ability to effectively identify and address trauma and emotional distress affecting youth, the Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to launch the Community Schools Initiative in 15 high-need school districts.

The motion directs the Department of Mental Health, in coordination with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, to identify nearly $4.3 million to hire 45 positions and deploy 10 regional mental health teams to serve the 80 school districts countywide.

A recent study by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology reveals that rates of major depressive episodes among adolescents ages 12-17 increased 52% between 2005 and 2017. The study found a similar increase in rates of major depressive episodes among young adults ages 18-25, which increased 63% between 2009 and 2017.

“These statistics are alarming and clearly demonstrate the immediate need for expanded access to mental health and well-being services for our youth,” said Barger. “This initiative will integrate evidence-based practices on school campuses and improve the connectivity of students and their families to service providers and holistic programs. By eliminating socio-emotional barriers, we will see improved learning outcomes and overall wellness for our students.”

The initiative will achieve these goals through dedicated school-based mental health social workers and regional mental health teams that will provide an array of school-based services, including but not limited to community outreach, peer support, crisis response, screening, triage, and linkage for students and families in need. Additionally, the initiative will provide education and training to school staff and administrators on the impacts of trauma and how to improve student achievement by creating a trauma-informed learning environment.

The Department of Mental Health has conducted broad stakeholder outreach to develop a community-driven plan to action. The proposed initiatives were presented to over 100 stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, psychiatric social workers, providers, and other community members to get feedback and input on the development of a comprehensive initiative.

Barger’s motion directs county agencies to begin implementing this initiative and report back in 60 days with additional pilot schools, as well as framework for a Mental Health First Aid program which will educate students on how to support a friend or loved one who is experiencing mental health challenges.

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