Senator Portantino Mental Health Proposals Receive Strong Support from Mental Health Services Oversight Commission & Key Advocacy Groups 

Thursday, February 25 2021


For Immediate Release: February 25, 2021

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 807-6091


Senator Portantino Mental Health Proposals Receive Strong Support from Mental Health Services Oversight Commission & Key Advocacy Groups 


Sacramento, California State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) announced strong coalition support from mental health advocacy groups for Senate Bills 224 and  14, both of which address the growing mental health crisis among California’s youth. The bills mandate mental health education and training programs in schools. The Senator also announced that the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission voted to support both measures, increasing their positive momentum.


“I am thankful to have a strong coalition of mental health advocacy groups supporting policies that will improve the mental health of California’s youth,” stated Senator Portantino. “The rate of students struggling with mental health issues has risen steadily over the years. Now isolated from their family and friends, students are suffering even more. By providing kids mental health education from a young age and mental health training for students and educators, we can bring these issues out of the shadows and end the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health,” added Senator Portantino.


SB 224 would require all students in California to receive mental health education at least one time during elementary school, one time during middle school, and one time during high school. Educational topics will include but are not limited to the overarching themes and core principles of mental health.


SB 14 requires the California Department of Education to identify an evidence based training program for school employees who have direct contact with students. It also permits 10th-12th graders to receive similar but age-appropriate training to help identify mental health struggles among their peers. The bill ensures that youth absences from school for mental health issues will be treated as an excused absence in the same way any other health issues are treated.


Both measures were introduced earlier this year and reflect the Senator’s dedication to improving mental health outcomes for youth. The Senator previously authored SB 972, which required schools to print the suicide hotline on student identification cards. Additionally, the Senator dedicated three years to pass SB 328, which pushes back school start times for middle and high schools.


Sponsors of SB 14 include Disability Rights California, NextGen Policy, and County Behavioral Health Directors Association. The non-profit Born This Way Foundation also supports the measure.


Sponsors of SB 224 include the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, California Association of Student Councils, the Children's Partnership, California Youth Empowerment Network, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and National Center for Youth Law. The measure is also supported by the California Association of Local Behavioral Health Boards & Commissions, County Behavioral Health Directors Association, Cal-HOSA, GENup, and Mental Health America of California.


 The following represent some of the positive comments garnered thus far:


“The Commission strongly urges state leaders to address the growing mental health crisis among children by expanding and strengthening school-based mental health services, including education, as recommended in our recently released report, Every Young Heart and Mind: Schools as Centers of Wellness.”


David Gordon, Commissioner of the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission and Sacramento County Schools Superintendent


“With half of all lifetime cases of mental illness beginning by the age of 14 and 1 in 5 youth ages 13-18 living with a mental health condition it is imperative that we give young people the tools and information to seek the help they may need as early as possible. Mental illness touches everyone and affects all age groups, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic classes. As the voice of families, NAMI CA could not be happier to partner with the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to improve student mental health, and provide our children with the tools to identify symptoms and seek treatment.”


Jessica Cruz, Chief Executive Officer, California Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness


“With the lasting impacts on mental health for California youth brought on by school closures, isolation, and a disruption to daily life due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is more vital than ever that we give our students an opportunity to build a fundamental knowledge surrounding mental health. The California Alliance of Child and Family Services is proud to sponsor SB 224, and we are thrilled to welcome the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to our growing list of supporters and sponsors.”


Christine Stoner-Mertz, Chief Executive Officer, California Alliance of Child and Family Services


“California youth are experiencing increased distress- particularly during the pandemic. MHSOAC recently found that one in three California high school students report feeling chronically sad and hopeless – and more than half of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students have reported feeling this way. CBHA has long fought for providing training to teachers and school personnel to help the entire school community understand how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental health and substance use disorder. We are thrilled to learn that the MHSOAC has decided to support SB 14 authored by Senator Portantino, which will help so many youth in need find appropriate treatment.”


Le Ondra Clark Harvey, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies