The California state government spent 
$426 million
on mental health in special education programs in 2014-2015. These programs provide the resources, counseling and medical services that occur for students with mental illness at school and in the greater community. A recent passing of legislation has left school districts responsible for providing these much needed services.

In 2011 a new bill called
 was passed by the State of California to transfer the issuance of mental health in special education programs to local school districts. Prior to the new law schools were required to provide Designated Instruction and Services (DIS) as part of their special education programs. The new bill called for increased services from the school districts called Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS). District leadership has been left to sort out the intensified services outlined in the ERHMHS methods, seeing that the DIS was less comprehensive.

Artwork of colored pencils.
Artwork of colored pencils.

has been proposed in the form of bill SB884. It’s aim is to keep the California Department of Education accountable to see if the $426 million in annual spending is being allocated properly. School districts will also be required to track their spending on student mental health services. It seems wise to start tracking this spending; it is said that almost
500,000 students
with the need for these services are being overlooked. The bill was put into action after a
recent audit
by the California State Auditor, which claimed the funds could used more efficiently.

The 2011 change was a result of a larger budget deal proposed by Governor Jerry Brown. The large nature of the deal resulted in a lack of execution to ensure the school districts were ready for their new responsibilities.

There have been
numerous controversies
around the mental health services that school districts are now required to provide. While it is commonplace for districts to limit their service to weekly sessions with the school psychologist, The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) guarantees more. Students with disabilities have the right to receive medical services by a licensed physician, training and counseling for their parents to better relate to their child and extended psychological services.

Although it is understandable that California school districts are still sorting the challenges that come with heightened responsibility, the $426 million spent on mental health in special education programs needs to be used wisely to ensure those that need additional care can get it.

Man smiling.


Written by Evan DeVries, Social Media Assistant for Thompson Policy