Hahn, Barger Raise Concerns About Insufficient State Mental Health Funding for LA County Students

Hahn, Barger Raise Concerns About Insufficient State Mental Health Funding for LA County Students

Los Angeles, CA  LA County Supervisors are raising concerns about the insufficiency of mental health funding for LA County students as provided by California’s Mental Health Student Services Act (MHSSA).

The MHSSA, passed in 2019, established a statewide grant program allowing county mental health departments to partner with local schools to create campus-based mental health services with the goal of reaching and treating students before their mental health issues become debilitating. On December 12, California’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission announced $75 million in grant funds would be made available for counties under the MHSSA over a four-year period on the basis of population size – small, medium, or large. However, the minimum population size required to qualify a county as large was set at 750,000 individuals -- meaning the maximum grant funding available to each large county, including LA County, is limited to $6 million per county over four years.

“When you do the math you realize LA County is only being offered one dollar per student per year to meet the mental health needs of a large and diverse student body with everything from campus counselors to suicide prevention training for teachers,” said Supervisor Hahn. “That is absolutely not enough.  We have more than three times the students than the next largest county in California and our funding allocation needs to reflect that difference.”

Today, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to send a letter to state leaders expressing concerns about the MHSSA funding allocation on behalf of the Board.

“We must continue to advocate for the mental health needs of the most vulnerable, and often under-represented among us, and that is our youth,” said Supervisor Barger. “Mental health needs have been recognized as a key component of childhood development and additional funding from the State of California will be critical to best serve the youth throughout Los Angeles County.”

“Aside from the fact that $75M is wholly inadequate to even dent the ongoing mental health needs in our schools across the state, it is truly unfathomable that Los Angeles County is only permitted to apply for $6M as a “large” county,” said Dr. Johnathan Sherin, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “We are a massive county with massive needs that must be met with requisite resource to have real impact. Further, a grant such as this one which compels a one off program will ultimately create administrative burdens to deliver proper design, development, implementation, data collection and analysis. And whether it comes in the form of hiring, contracting, training, licensing or some other type of infrastructural demand, these associated departmental burdens are likely to outweigh the added value brought about by the resource itself because they pull staff capacity that is desperately needed for other projects”.

Los Angeles County is home to 80 school districts, approximately 2,200 schools, and 1.5 million students. A $1.5 million annual allocation breaks down to $18,750 per district, $682 per school, and one single dollar per student. The LA County Department of Mental Health alone has already invested roughly $100 million annually in schools through their legal entity network and partnerships across districts.

“I continually hear from school district leaders across the county that addressing students’ mental health issues is their greatest challenge to creating productive learning environments,” said Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools. “We’re making progress with our Mental Health Department partners to provide needed resources, but it is truly disappointing to see a cap of $6 million from the state for our 80 districts serving 1.5 million youth – 70 percent of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged. We will be fighting for our students’ fair share of this critical funding.”

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