Senator Anthony Portantino Receives Youth Mental Health Champion Leadership Award

Friday, April 29 2022

For Immediate Release: April 29, 2022

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Anthony Portantino Receives Youth Mental Health Champion Leadership Award

Sacramento, California – Today, Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) received the 2022 Policy and Legislative Leadership Award on behalf of the California Mental Health Advocates for Children & Youth (CMHACY) during the 42nd annual CMHACY Conference. The Senator was honored for championing policies that promote the social, emotional, and behavioral wellbeing of children and families. 

“As a father who has the privilege to advocate for comprehensive mental health policies for families, I am humbled to receive this honor,” stated Senator Portantino. “I am also honored to work alongside many advocacy organizations dedicated to improving mental health outcomes for those in need. Together we will continue push forward policies that are critical to ensuring the long-term wellbeing and academic success of our kids.”

Senator Portantino has a strong record of advocating for mental health policies and has been dedicated to improving youth mental health outcomes during his time in public office. The Senator previously authored SB 972, which required schools to print the suicide hotline on student identification cards. He dedicated three years to pass SB 328, a policy which pushes back start times for middle and high schools. Scientific data and research show that later school start times lead to improved mental health for kids, with reductions in instances of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. For his past work, Senator Portantino received the Children’s Hero Award from the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and has been recognized by Family Services Agency in Burbank. Last year, the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA) honored the Senator as a Behavioral Health Champion.

Senator Portantino has authored multiple bills aimed at improving mental health outcomes for youth. SB 224 requires local educational agencies, which currently offer one or more courses in health education to middle or high school students, to include mental health content in those courses. It also requires that the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand mental health instruction in California public schools on or before January 1, 2024. SB 14 requires the California Department of Education to recommend best practices and identify training programs to address youth behavioral health, including but not limited to, staff and pupil training. Additionally, 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. This year, Senator Portantino introduced SB 1302 to establish or improve wellness and mental health support centers on campuses and SB 387 to require evidence based mental health training for 75 percent of classified and certificated employees on school campuses.

“Senator Portantino consistently stands out among the crowd as a Behavioral Health Champion for children and youth,” says Chris Stoner-Mertz, CEO of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services (CA Alliance).  “We are thrilled that CMHACY has honored Senator Portantino with the organization's 2022 Policy & Legislative Leadership Award.  Senator Portantino’s thoughtful and determined policy leadership is making a meaningful difference in the lives of  children, youth, and families facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.  The CA Alliance warmly congratulates Senator Portantino and stands with CMHACY in recognizing his exemplary leadership for California’s kids.”

The California Mental Health Advocacy for Children and Youth is a diverse association of passionate stakeholders who promote high-quality behavioral health services for children, youth, and families.  Comprised of parents, youth, public and private sector providers, educators, County agency leaders, state department officials, policymakers and professional advocates, CMHACY’s “signature event” is the annual conference. The conference has been held since 1980 and offers a forum for policy development, spawned collaboration and partnerships among counties and providers, incubated state-wide parent and youth organizations, and hosts nationally recognized speakers, and showcasing cutting-edge programs and clinical advances.