Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have established a pilot program for school-based mental health services specifically for traumatized children and youth.
In his veto message, Gov. Brown said he supports the efforts of the bill but said the pilot school mental health program in Alameda County that it called for could be started without state intervention. He said the program may be eligible for funding through the California Mental Health Services Act, also known as Proposition 63.
The bill, Assembly Bill 174 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), was a considerably less-ambitious version of the original bill, which called for the creation of a grant program to fund statewide, school-based individual, group, and family trauma counseling; youth development programming focused on preventing and addressing violence; school-wide violence prevention programs; and support for teachers and other school staff in identifying and responding to students’ trauma-related needs.
By the time the bill made it to the governor, it had been amended several times to say that the mental health services would not use state funding. And instead of a statewide program, the bill called for a pilot program in Alameda County to provide the services outlined in the legislation.
Advocates said they would continue to seek ways to provide services to traumatized youth, who frequently lack access to counselors and mental health providers. “The need is huge,” said Ellen Wu, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, a statewide health advocacy group based in Oakland and a co-sponsor of the bill. “And there is definitely traction and momentum on the issue of trauma-informed care.”
She added, “We know there are not enough dollars or enough culturally competent service providers to take care of youth, especially those who have experienced trauma, and we’re trying to chip away at the issue.”