New Resource: What Are “Katie A. Services” and Why Are They Critical for Youth with Mental Health Needs?

The consequences of untreated mental illness are depicted in the news a lot. Families and whole communities have been and continue to be torn apart because people with serious mental health needs aren’t getting adequate treatment. Hospitalizations for psychiatric disorders are spiking, especially for youth, and there aren’t enough hospital beds to meet this need.

But instead of adding to the deluge of bad news about our mental health system, I’d like to share some good news out of California, as well as a new resource that could be helpful for youth and families in need of better services and supports.

Youth with mental health needs often end up in hospitals or other facilities because they’re in crisis and have nowhere else to turn. If more children and youth received intensive mental health treatment in their own homes, schools, and communities before their behaviors escalate, fewer youth would end up in hospitals or other restrictive and costly facilities.

The good news: Thousands of youth with serious mental health needs in California are eligible to receive home and community-based mental health services, also known as “Katie A. services,” named after the lawsuit that made them available, under federal law.

The even better news: The number of youth who are eligible is growing. Earlier this month, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) released an Information Notice clarifying that counties must provide these services to all Medicaid youth who need them.

And the best news? Serving youth with intensive mental health needs in this way means better outcomes and less disruption in young people’s lives, a fact affirmed by research and practice nationwide.

All of this news, however, comes with a call for action. The rollout of these services across the state has been remarkably slow. While as many as 35,000 youth in California could benefit from these services, only around 4,000 are actually receiving care. This is due, in part, to the fact that many youth, families, advocates and even clinicians don’t know about these services, or that counties have a legal obligation to provide them to Medi-Cal eligible youth.

The team at Young Minds has put together our latest factsheet– “What Are Katie A. Services and Why Are They Critical for Youth With Mental Health Needs?” –in the hope that it will help demystify these services and provide youth, families, advocates, clinicians, and policy makers with the information they need to assure youth can access them.

Katie A. services represent an enormous opportunity to give youth with serious mental health needs the same freedoms and opportunities as their peers: to live healthy and fulfilling lives as successful members of their communities. And who knows, if more youth receive these services, we could start offsetting all the bad news with some good.

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