Newsom Unveils $4.7 Billion Mental Health Program for Children

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
August 22, 2022 Updated: August 24, 2022

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $4.7 billion program last week that will work with schools to expand mental health services for children.

The program, dubbed the Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health (pdf), invests in mental health and substance use services and hires 40,000 new mental health workers—including 10,000 school counselors—across the state.

Newsom called the plan “the most significant overhaul of our mental health system in state history,” in an Aug. 18 statement.

“Mental and behavioral health is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” Newsom said. “We’re investing billions of dollars to ensure every California child has better access to comprehensive mental health and substance use services.”

The program intends to hire more school counselors, expand capacity at mental health clinics, and create virtual platforms where individuals can sign up for online mental health assessments and interventions.

The announcement comes amid high reported rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide among youth in California.

During the 2020–2021 school year, 30 percent of 7th and 9th graders, and 50 percent of 11th graders in the state reported chronic sadness; meanwhile, suicide rates for California youth ages 10 to 18 increased by 20 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to Newsom’s office.

Parts of the plan are already in place, the governor’s office said, including the online Children’s Mental Health Resource Hub, a program for children and families that includes access to hotlines for suicide and depression.

Newsom unveiled the plan from a High School in the Fresno Unified School District, which the governor calls a model for the kind of resources the state plans to offer schools as it has increased its mental health staff from around 50 to 200 people, according to the governor’s office.