Using Evidence-Based Programs to Meet the Mental Health Needs of California Children and Youth

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Recent estimates suggest that 10 to 20 percent of children and youth have a diagnosable mental disorder (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000), and that only a minority of youth with mental health disorders receive specialty mental health care (Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, 2007). Despite a growing body of evidence indicating the benefits of timely prevention, diagnosis and intervention, the child-serving systems continue to miss opportunities to improve outcomes for these children and their families.

The 2004 passage of Proposition 63, known as the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), provided increased resources to support county mental health programs. The goal of the MHSA is to improve the lives of children and youth (as well as adult populations) by focusing on prevention, early intervention, and the provision of evidence-based services. Funding provided by the MHSA has contributed significantly to improved outcomes by increasing the utilization of evidence-based programs in children’s mental health in California.

Through an examination of interview data surrounding key issues in children’s mental health, including the benefits of providing evidence-based programs to achieve the goals set forth in the MHSA, this policy report synthesizes information and proposes recommendations to maximize outcomes for children and their families.

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