Meeting the mental health needs of children with emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs is a persistent challenge. Many factors contribute to barriers to access for services for children: poverty, no insurance coverage, stigma, shame, language and cultural issues, as well as the difficulty of qualifying for and accessing public mental health services. United Advocates for Children and Families is a family-run organization that advocates with the California State Legislature and Administration on behalf of children and their families. We stay educated and informed on social justice issues and policy related to mental health and mental well-being. UACF believes that the outcomes of policy decisions that affect families are of utmost importance to the overall health of our state.
We believe that no child who needs mental health care should be denied access to services. This means that services should be available, are acceptable to the child and their family, are evidence-based with positive outcomes, and culturally appropriate to meet the needs of the child and their family, and are provided in a place and at a time so that the family is able to participate in the ongoing treatment. In essence, UACF’s public policy advocacy efforts adhere to the following core values and principles:
- Mental health services require appropriate funding.
- Mental health services need to be expanded so that parents do not have to turn to child welfare and juvenile justice systems for needed mental health care for their children.
- Mental health services advocacy requires collaboration between youth, their families and children's policy-makers, both public and private.
We also employ active public policy tracking and analysis strategies that keep our constituents educated and informed about legislation that will affect them.
In November 2004, California voters passed Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). The law called for the establishment of the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) defined the creation and composition of the Commission.
The Mission of the MHSOAC is to provide vision and leadership, in collaboration with clients, their family members, and underserved communities, to ensure Californians understand mental health is essential to overall health. Hold public mental health systems accountable. Provide oversight for eliminating disparities; promote wellness, recovery and resiliency; and ensure positive outcomes for individuals living with serious mental illness and their families.
The role of the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) is to oversee the implementation of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). The MHSOAC is also responsible for developing strategies to overcome stigma. At any time, the MHSOAC may advise the Governor or the Legislature on mental health policy.
In the past, the MHSOAC has been responsible for review and approval of county plans for the Prevention & Early Intervention (PEI) and Innovation Program components of the MHSA. After the passage of Assembly Bill 100 (AB100) in March 2011, the role of the Commission shifted from review and approval of county plans to providing training and technical assistance for county mental health planning as needed. Additionally, the Commission evaluates MHSA-funded programs throughout the State. When AB 1467 passed in June 2012, the MHSOAC’s role of training and technical assistance and evaluation expanded; approval of county Innovation plans by the MHSOAC was also reinstated. The MHSOAC receives all county 3-year plans, annual updates, and annual Revenue and Expenditure Reports.
Health Care Reform
By January 1, 2014, the ACA requires states to have functional state health insurance exchanges through which individuals and small businesses can compare and purchase health insurance plans. Use the resources below to learn more about the exchanges and how child and adolescent psychiatrists can get involved in their state. Mental health recovery is integral to overall health and should be included in any comprehensive health care reform package.
- Find coverage for you and your family.California has created a new health benefit exchange. Visit the website: www.coveredca.com/
- How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for the People of California: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/information-for-you/ca.html
- What does the Affordable Care Act mean for you and your family? What Does the Health Reform Law Mean for You and Your Family? A Focus on Children, Youth, and Families
The Statewide Family Network Technical Assistance Center has also done extensive research to find the most informative, cpmprehensive, and regularly updated online sources for information. These sites include:
- HealthCare.gov: This site is designed to offer information and transparency about the health insurance market so that consumers can be sure they’re getting the best value. The creation of the site was a requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and is designed to provide comprehensive, easy-to-understand information.
- Kaiser Family Foundation: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) is a U.S.-based non-profit, non-partisan, private operating foundation that focuses on the major health care issues facing the nation - most importantly, Health Reform.
- Kids Well: a national advocacy campaign focused on successful health care reform implementation on behalf of children by providing timely, easy-to-understand health care reform news and analysis.
- Families USA: a national nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is federal law that provides funds to states to comply with a set of core requirements designed to protect children in the juvenile justice system. These core requirements include keeping children out of adult jails and prisons, funding proven prevention programs that are designed to keep children from entering the juvenile or criminal justice systems, and programs to reduce the racial and ethnic disparities of youth in the criminal justice system.
- National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice: http://www.ncmhjj.com/
- Pacific Juvenile Defender Center – site includes an overview of the process, multilingual info for parents: http://www.pjdc.org/community-resources/juvenile-justice-system-basics/california-juvenile-justice/
Katie A Settlement Agreement Implementation
The plaintiffs filed a class action suit on July 18, 2002, alleging violations of federal Medicaid laws, the American with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and California Government Code Section 11135. The suit sought to improve the provision of mental health and supportive services for children and youth in, or at imminent risk of placement in, foster care in California.
On December 2, 2011, Federal District Court Judge A. Howard Matz issued an order approving a proposed settlement of the case. The settlement agreement seeks to accomplish systemic change for mental health services to children and youth within the class by promoting, adopting, and endorsing three new service array approaches for existing Medicaid covered services. The state Department of Social Services and Department of Health Care Services will work together with the federal court appointed Special Master, the plaintiffs’ counsel, and other stakeholders to develop and implement a plan to accomplish the terms of the settlement agreement.
Mental Health Parity
The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act ended health insurance benefits discrimination between mental health/substance use disorders and medical/surgical benefits for group health plans with more than 50 employees. The law became effective on January 1, 2010.
- Mental Health Parity: A Consumer’s Guide to California and Federal Law
- California Department of Managed Care: http://www.hmohelp.ca.gov/dmhc_consumer/br/br_mentalhlth.aspx#paritylaw
Mental Health in Schools
The Mental Health in Schools Act (H.R. 751) provides grants to local education authorities to bring community-based mental health resources into schools to provide comprehensive mental health services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate for the community.
- School Mental Health: http://www.schoolmentalhealth.org/Resources/Fam/ResFam.html
- The Center for Health and Healthcare in Schools: http://www.healthinschools.org/School-Based-Mental-Health.aspx
How To Get Involved
Talk to your local and federal legislators. Ask them about where they stand on children’s mental health issues, budgets, and legislation efforts. Talk with policymakers about their positions on access to necessary and appropriate mental health services for children and families. Make your voice heard by attending and speaking or testifying at hearings. Legislators are likely to be influenced and persuaded by personal stories than by data, statistics or the opinions of professionals.
- Find elected officials, including the president, members of Congress, governors, state legislators, local officials, and more: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/officials/
- Watch live and archived webcasts of Legislative proceedings: http://senate.ca.gov/audiotv
- House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/
- US Senate: http://www.senate.gov/
- State Legislature Web Sites: http://www.ncsl.org/about-us/ncslservice/state-legislative-websites-directory.aspx
How To Contact Your Local Official
There are four key ways to communicate with your elected officials. These are letters, email, telephone calls, and personal visits.