Improving Coordination and Access to Comprehensive School-Based Mental Health Services in California
School-based mental health referral pathways provide the infrastructure (processes, resources, and procedures) for identifying, referring, and monitoring whether students, families, and educators are linked to appropriate mental health services within a network of school and community partners.
The Region 15 Comprehensive Center (R15 CC) and the Regional Educational Laboratory West (REL West) collaborated with the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California State Board of Education (SBE) to conduct an initial landscape analysis to better understand the current strengths, barriers, and opportunities of school-based mental health referral pathways.
This report aims to help leaders make informed decisions about how resources should be allocated and how technical assistance should be designed to effectively support mental health services for students.
- Finding 1. Students in California had significant mental health and related support needs prior to the pandemic that have only further increased.
- Finding 2. Despite growing student mental health needs, critical school and community behavioral and mental health staffing shortages persist.
- Finding 3. School-based mental health referral pathways are not always aligned and coherent, and approaches to service delivery vary greatly across the state.
- Finding 4. Limited funding flexibility and varied understanding of how to navigate, maximize, and plan for sustainability of available funding sources constitute a key barrier to expanding access to mental health services for students.
- Finding 5. A limited understanding of complex privacy laws and regulations by educational leaders and community partners can be a barrier to providing school-based mental health services.
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