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All Voices

November 12, 2010

California Governor Vetoes Education's Mental Health Funding

On Tuesday, several education advocates filed a lawsuit against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) recent veto of mental health services funding for special education students, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.

Last month, mental health and disability rights advocates filed a class-action lawsuit against the cuts to student mental health services (California Healthline, 10/25).

When the governor signed the state budget package last month, he used line-item vetoes to cut $133 million intended to pay counties for providing mental health services to about 20,000 special education students. He also suspended a state mandate to provide student mental health services.

Because federal law mandates mental health services be available under The People with Disabilities Act for those who need it, including students, the governor has shifted the responsibility for providing services to the counties and local school districts.

These funds provide valuable interventions for children with autism and other mental illnesses. It is widely accepted that early interventions and diagnosis for mental illness can have an impact on abilities, care and prognosis.

Are Children’s Mental Health Issues Being Served?

According to an Australian study, an estimated 14-20% of children and adolescents are affected by a mental health problem every year, but only one in four receives any professional help.

Mental health problems in childhood and adolescence can have far reaching effects on the physical well-being, educational, psychological and social development of individuals. Children who are mentally healthy are better able to:

  • learn;
  • experience stronger relationships with teachers, family members and peers;
  • negotiate challenges including the transition into adolescence and then adulthood;
  • achieve long-term education and career goals; and
  • enjoy a better quality of life.

When early signs of difficulty are not addressed, mental health problems can potentially become more serious and possibly extend into mental disorders. For those experiencing mental disorders, early intervention and a more supportive environment can lead to better mental health outcomes later in life.

Dollars Spent Now Equate to Greater Returns In The Future

The returns are not just measured economically, but also in quality of life, and bears witness to a society that cares about those who are less advantaged as children and as adults.