California Should Spend Mental Health Dollars Based on Need, Not History

Pending DOF Decision Regarding EPSDT Allocation Formula Will Significantly Affect Access to Mental Health Services for Low-income Youth in California

Last month, we at Young Minds Advocacy Project shared highlights from the California Senate Budget Subcommittee’s hearing on proposed changes to the methodology used to allocate 2011 Realignment Behavioral Health Growth funding to county mental health programs.

The Department of Finance (DOF) is the agency ultimately responsible for setting the methodology, and as previously noted, is considering a proposal by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) that has many youth advocates deeply concerned. With DOF’s decision expected any day now, we wanted to highlight:

  1. The importance of this decision;
  2. The negative effects it could have on youth if DOF decides to continue with “business as usual”; and
  3. That our community has an opportunity, right now, to significantly improve young people’s access to critical mental health care in California.

“Business as Usual” Plan Will Perpetuate Inequalities

DOF’s pending decision is important because it will determine how the state divvies up approximately $120 million – half state/half federal – to serve mental health needs. This represents a significant increase in resources available for children’s mental health care. What’s also important about this decision is that it presents an opportunity for California to break with a “business as usual” approach that restricts access to care to thousands of youth, and reform the allocation formula in a way that actually improves the lives of youth and families.

Unfortunately, as of today, it’s unclear that DOF will decide in favor of equal access to care.

DOF is considering a proposal that would allocate growth funds based entirely on past spending. This proposal will perpetuate inequalities in access to services for youth across the state. Counties with low access rates will receive less funding, thereby widening the chasm between these counties and high-performing ones. As a result, thousands of youth across the state will continue to experience delays or denials in critical mental health care, solely because of where they live.

On May 19, Young Minds’ President Patrick Gardner highlighted these concerns and others in a letter to the DOF. The letter also outlines an alternative methodology for how to distribute behavioral health growth funds in order to achieve equal access to care and significantly improve outcomes for young people and their families.

Rather than allocating growth funding based on historic spending, Gardner proposes that the allocation be linked to each county’s “needs for meeting federal and state legal obligations under Medicaid, achieving important state policy goals, and serving disadvantaged youth who desperately need quality mental health care.”

Included with the letter was a table demonstrating how to use the allocation formula to advance important policy goals and legal obligations. The table has two separate allocation schedules that were developed to close the statewide equal access to quality services gap and to fully implement Katie A. services. For future allocations, Gardner proposed that DOF “should allocate funds based on whether proposed spending by the counties advances key policy goals, that may be set in collaboration with key stakeholders.”

DOF could make their decision any day now. If you agree that 2011 Realignment Growth Funds should be allocated based on what’s best for youth and families rather than “business as usual”, let your voice be heard. Whether that’s by sending Young Minds your thoughts, writing a letter to the DOF, or sharing this post on your organization’s social media platforms–your support and input matters. You can help us to encourage DOF to prioritize the needs of youth and take advantage of this opportunity to break down barriers to quality care for ALL young people.

Young Minds Advocacy Project engages in legal advocacy and community education to assist low-income youths and their families and communities in accessing appropriate mental health services and supports

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Legislative leaders in California have produced an initial plan to achieve Gov. Gavin Newsom's call for the closure of the state's Department of #JuvenileJustice, which once housed more than 10,000 youth and young adults and now holds fewer than 1,000.