SAN DIEGO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced nearly $5 billion for youth mental health as kids head back to school and youth nationwide are reporting more symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The governor’s program is called the Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health.
“$5 billion dollars, really represents an enormous step forward to get kids better care sooner,” said Dr. Ben Maxwell, the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rady Children’s Hospital.
Youth mental health care in California is expanding, with Newsom’s plan that can help Californians up to age 25 years old.
San Diego County mental health specialists have said the youth mental health crisis has been present for several years, but say the pandemic has made it worse.
At Rady Children’s Hospital, Dr. Maxwell said they are seeing 28 times more youth needing psychiatric help than they did 10 years ago.
“Kids feel neglected and voices don’t matter and it causes them to retreat and go inwardly and it’s kind of sad,” said Dr. Bryan Amaro, a psychiatrist and co-founder of Healthy U Behavioral Health in San Diego.
The struggles of youth mental health are displayed at the Healthy U Behavioral Health San Diego, a mental health outpatient service for adolescents and adults.
“What it looks like is a lot of pain, a lot of depression, a lot of people feeling unimportant, unvalued, alone, scared,” Amaro said.
Amaro says that some teens he sees need to be seen more frequently in outpatient treatment. That is one of the reasons why Healthy U is expanding their adolescent outpatient program to see teens three to four times a week, for group, individual and family therapy and psychiatric care.
“And that’s where all the nuts and bolts and the real deep work can be done, to help these adolescents get the coping skills and the healthy living strategies to actually work through their issues,” Amaro said.
The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health will create 40,000 new behavioral health specialists, hire 10,000 school counselors and provide up to $20,000 scholarships for mental health workers that spend two years working in schools. The plan also expands early intervention for mental health and substance abuse.
“There is an issue, there is a problem and there needs to be an innovative solution,” Amaro said. “Looks like California is on that path to start the healing.”