Public policy decisions are made every day and can affect a
child’s chances of growing up safe, healthy, and educated. Public
policy refers primarily to rules, laws, and budget decisions made
at all levels of government – local, county, state, and federal.
These decisions determine the expectations of society and
government, what government’s role is in the lives of its
citizens, and the type of support the government will provide for
children, families, and others. Public policy can take the form
of legislation (laws) at the state and federal levels, ordinances
at the local level, and school or annual budgets. In addition,
state and federal governments routinely adopt rules, known
officially as ‘regulations,’ that affect our daily lives. For
example, state and federal laws and rules largely drive what your
child is taught each day in school. Funding decisions determine
which services and programs will be available to children and
their families. The healthcare children receive, the protection
the government provides from abuse and neglect, and myriad other
issues that directly affect children are determined through
public policy decisions. Parents, youth and children have a voice
in public policy, whether it is voting for a candidate who
supports health care reform and education, rallying at the State
Capitol, or participating in decisions in their local district.
Lawmakers want to hear from their constituents and are
particularly attentive to children and youth advocating for their
Meeting the needs of children with emotional, behavioral, and
mental health concerns is a persistent challenge. These children
deserve access to the best possible mental health care, but
unfortunately, such services can be difficult to obtain. Parents,
caregivers, and family members can help by being informed,
involved, and persistent advocates for their loved ones.
We believe no child or youth in need of mental health care should
be denied access to services. This means services that are
evidence-based with positive outcomes should be readily available
(close to home) and culturally appropriate to enable a child and
family to participate in the ongoing treatment.
Many factors contribute to the barriers faced by California
families trying to access services for children and youth even in
light of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These include: poverty,
lack of insurance coverage, and stigma and shame in addition to
language and cultural issues, and the difficulty of
qualifying for or accessing public mental health services.
Our newest initiative, Empower Parents, Invest
in Children (EPIC), drives our commitment to ensuring parents
are present at every level of decision making through careful
bill analysis, education, and outreach to parents, caregivers,
and family members.
The 2015-2016 budget proposed by Governor Brown is $164.7
billion. Schools and other services of interest to UACF are
expected to benefit from the positive surge of the state economy.
UACF’s advocacy efforts primarily will focus on the education
budget and parts of the health and human services budget.
The Parity Act, formerly known as the Mental Health Parity and
Addiction Equality Act (MHPAEA) of 2008, was enacted in 2009 and
is an extension of the Mental Health Parity Law of 1996. The 1996
law extended coverage by certain health insurance companies to
include mental health issues, along with the usual medical
issues. The Parity Act extends coverage even further to include
substance abuse issues.
UACF is committed to advising stakeholders and gatekeepers
(county, state, and federal agencies) at all levels of government
in the development of policies and projects to improve the
quality of life for children, youth, and their families
struggling with mental health disabilities. Our aim is to bring
together mental health system service coordinators and agencies
to provide a collaborative approach to planning and resource
UACF remains dedicated to ensuring the parent and family voice is
present at all levels of decision making. When we review public
policy, we carefully analyze to what degree children and families
will be impacted by bills and amendments to proposed legislation.
According to the California Department of Education, as of the
2013-2014 educational year, nearly 28,000 special education
students in California receive mental health services in support
of their guarantee to a free, appropriate public education
(FAPE). AB 114 placed the responsibility of providing these
mental health services on the local school districts. This change
comes after more than 25 years of AB 3632, which required county
mental health departments to work in partnership with school
districts to fulfill the federal Individuals with Disabilities
Act (IDEA) requirement.
Passed in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
(commonly referred to as the ACA or Obamacare), aims to change
how care is delivered, providing incentives for expanded and
improved primary care, and creating team-based models of service
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United Advocates for Children and Families is committed to
protecting your privacy and developing technology that gives you
the most powerful and safe online experience. This Statement of
Privacy applies to the United Advocates for Children and Families
Web site and governs data collection and usage. By using the
United Advocates for Children and Families website, you consent
to the data practices described in this statement.
If you or a loved one is in immediate crisis, please call 911
or visit the nearest emergency room.
The UACF Hope Line is a message system for parents and caregivers
that provides resources and connections to individuals in your
community that may be able to assist you in finding appropriate
support services for your child’s mental health needs. Feel free
to leave a message on the UACF Hope Line and your call will be
returned as promptly as possible.