As the state of California approaches the two-year anniversary of Gov. Gavin Newsom issuing the nation’s first stay-at-home order as a result of COVID-19, the subject of children’s mental health is gaining traction in the state Capitol.
Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public instruction, is introducing legislation that would assist support the education of aspiring mental health therapists while also moving California closer to his goal of filling 10,000 additional school counsellor posts.
Attorney General Rob Bonta is looking into TikTok and Instagram for pushing their social media platforms to children and young adults while knowing they have a “devastating toll on children’s mental health and well-being.”
In addition, a bipartisan pair of state legislators presented legislation on Tuesday that would empower California parents to sue social media corporations for harms caused by hooking their children on addictive algorithms.
“We’re seeing eating problems, despair, and suicidal thoughts as a result of the social media addiction epidemic,” said Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, a San Luis Obispo Republican and bill co-author. “I’m not sure why all of us — society and children — have to pay the price for that.” The expense appears to be absorbed, at least in part, by the firms that profit from the activity.”
In some ways, however, money isn’t the primary issue.
Indeed, as Jocelyn Wiener of CalMatters explains in the first chapter of her yearlong series, “On the edge: Can California’s Failing Mental Health System Be Healed?” — Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration intends to invest $4.4 billion in the state’s juvenile mental health infrastructure over the next five years.
Nonetheless, many children’s advocates believe that assistance is urgently required.
“I think what people are asking for is an emergency reaction,” says Lishaun Francis, director of behavioural health for Children Now. That was never the intention of the state of California.”
The stats in Jocelyn’s narrative highlight the magnitude of the crisis:
According to a CalMatters examination of state data, opioid-related overdoses among California’s 15- to 19-year-olds nearly tripled between 2019 and 2020.
Suicide rates among African-American youth more than doubled between 2014 and 2020.
During the epidemic, children’s mental health emergency room visits have skyrocketed.
So far, one in every 330 California children has lost a parent or caregiver to the pandemic.
On top of that, California is experiencing a mental health practitioner shortage. “No one likes to hear you have a waiting list,” Stacey Katz, CEO of WestCoast Children’s Clinic in Alameda County, said. “I’m not sure what you term it when 176 people are waiting for services.”
In California’s schools, a similar dynamic is at work: Despite the fact that the state is pouring billions of dollars into teacher recruitment, retention, and training initiatives, districts are struggling to overcome ongoing staff shortages, according to CalMatters’ Joe Hong.
Barrett Snider, a lobbyist who represents school districts throughout California, told Joe that he once heard a superintendent compare the state grants to giving a poor family a Disneyland vacation.
“That’s good,” Snider says. But that is not what we require.”
According to official data, California had 8,442,537 confirmed cases (+0.04% from the previous day) and 86,927 deaths (+0.2% from the previous day) as of Tuesday. Coronavirus hospitalizations are also being tracked by CalMatters by county.
California has given 72,292,634 vaccine doses, and 74.2 percent of eligible Californians have been fully immunised.