Children and youth involved in child welfare have complex mental health needs, due in part to their compounding experiences with trauma and often inadequate access to appropriate services. In California, the State’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) provides a critical safety net for foster children and youth. Under Medi-Cal, County Mental Health Plans (MHPs) provide Specialty Mental Health Services (SMHS) to beneficiaries with intensive mental health needs.
This report series examines the extent to which foster children and youth in California have meaningful access to Medi-Cal SMHS. Our research focuses on the policies and practices of the five California counties with the largest foster youth populations: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Fresno, and Orange counties. Our research is presented in three parts: (1) a review of county policies, procedures, and beneficiary-facing materials; (2) a review of the available data in California and the counties; and (3) results from qualitative research studies in the five counties, including a survey of providers and advocates as well as test calls to each county’s mental health access line.
Taken together, this research seeks to provide a multifaceted picture of foster youth access to Medi-Cal SMHS on the ground. Our analyses suggest that many children and youth are not receiving the services to which they are entitled and for which they need to address their mental health conditions. In our reports, we make a number of recommendations for improving access to SMHS for foster children and youth, including enhancing State oversight of the counties, implementing greater data transparency, and improving education and training for county staff and providers.
This research was made possible in part through the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
Read the reports here:
Foster Youth Access to Medi-Cal Specialty Mental Health Services: A Review of Policies, Procedures, and Beneficiary-Facing Materials in the California Counties with the Largest Foster Care Populations