Mental Health Action and Advocacy

Boy meeting with a counselor
SELPA Administrators of California lead in the area of mental health programming in important ways.  Most SELPAs provide regular professional development on universal mental health supports in a multi-tiered system of support, trauma-informed practices, social-emotional learning curriculum implementation, and mindfulness.  In many regions of California, SELPAs provide an economy of scale for a full continuum of educationally-related mental health programming, from pre-referral to identification to service provision to program placement design and major placement decisions.  SELPAs also lead mental health advocacy work across multiple agencies and organizations for the benefit of students, families, and staff.

Background

In 1984, Assembly Bill 3632 statutorily required a partnership between school districts and county mental health agencies to deliver mental health services to students with individualized education programs (IEPs). In 2011, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 114, which repealed the state mandate on special education and county mental health agencies and eliminated related references to mental health services in California statute. As a result of this new legislation, school districts are solely responsible for ensuring that students with disabilities receive special education and related services to meet their needs according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004.

Mental health as a related service is identified as mental health services necessary for a student to benefit from their special education program. Within the educational environment, these can include assessment of needs for mental health services, crisis intervention within the educational setting, outpatient counseling, day treatment placement, case management, parent consultation, and/or residential placement recommendations. Please note that medication management is not included in these services since federal guidelines consider it medically necessary and not an educationally necessary service. The term, “mental health as a related service”, is currently utilized in place of AB 3632 services. Mental health-related services and Educationally-Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) can be used interchangeably.

SELPA Models for Mental Health Service Provision

State and federal ERMHS funding that is not tied to Assembly Bill 602 dollars are intended to be used to provide mental health services and supports within the school setting.  Recent flexibility was granted to allow for these funds to be used for a variety of programs and services beyond tier 2 and 3 direct supports for students on an individualized education plan (IEP).  Each SELPA's approach to the use of these funds is determined locally by each SELPA Governing Board or Superintendents' Council.  Some SELPAs may elect to pass through most all ERMHS funding to their local educational agencies (LEAs), especially where they have larger enrollment and more staffing options.  Others reserve funds centrally to provide an economy of scale that can serve students needing itinerant or classroom-based ERMHS services across a geographical region.  Most SELPAs reserve some funds to cover administrative costs of supervising and administering a regional ERMHS model, and set aside some ERMHS funds to cover some of the costs associated with more restrictive placements, including Residential Treatment Centers.

AdvocacyGroup therapy session

SELPAs provide leadership in the provision of appropriate professional development within organizations and agencies across California. SELPA Administrators of California take the lead on providing local training on such topics as appropriate identification of students in the category of emotional disturbance; appropriate evidence-based counseling programs and strategies; and behavioral and social-emotional data collection, analysis, goal-writing, and progress monitoring.  SELPA leaders are also positioned in lead roles within organization and agency boards, such as the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY), where their perspectives on the educational mental health model complement the medical model and clinical programming, fostering collaboration and reducing duplication of effort.  Last but not least, SELPA leaders also coordinate a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) listserve for case managers, program specialists, and ERMHS coordinators, and an annual fair for RTC vendors to share with LEAs about the programs offered.  

Important Links

CASEL - Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning 
CMHACY - California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth
Every Young Heart and Mind:  Schools as Centers of Wellness - Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, 2020
NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness
SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Student Mental Health Services - Analysis of Student Outcomes and Service Costs, California State Auditor Report, 2016
Transformative SEL Ambassador's Toolkit - California Department of Education and CDE