SB 224 (State Senator Anthony J. Portantino), co-sponsored by NAMI California, would require all students in California receive age-appropriate mental health education.
The bill ensures that students in grades 1 and 12 will receive mental health education from a qualified instructor at least one time during elementary school, one time during middle school, and one time during high school. The bill requires instruction and related materials are appropriate for use with pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities and English learners. Educational topics include but are not limited to the overarching themes and core principles of mental health.
Why We Need It
Children and youth are experiencing escalating mental health needs and face numerous barriers to accessing care and support.
California ranks 48th in the nation for providing children with needed mental health care (source: the most recent Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance)
The COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating children’s mental health needs. The proportion of mental health-related pediatric emergency department visits during the pandemic increased by 24% for children ages 5-11 and by 31% for children ages 12-17 (source: CDC).
CEO Jessica Cruz: “Mental illness impacts families, individuals and communities across our state on a daily basis. Schools are one of the first points of contact where students show early signs and symptoms of an onset of mental illness. In order to change our culture in how we respond to mental illness, we must educate students early and often. With suicide rates in young adults at an all-time high, it is more important than ever that we implement curriculum that will help connect students and families to the appropriate resources and treatments available.”
Senator Portantino: “It is inarguable that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis in California. Even before the pandemic, the rate of students struggling with mental health problems such as depression has steadily risen over the years. Now isolated from their family and friends, students are suffering even more. Mental health is just as important as physical health and it is unfortunate that we neglect it in our curriculum. By educating kids from a young age, we can bring these issues out of the shadows and end the stigma and taboo surrounding the discussion of mental health.”
Where It Stands
January 2021: Bill introduced by Portantino.
March 2021: Bill approved with bipartisan support by the Senate Education Committee.
July 2021: Bill clears the Assembly Education Committee. “NAMI California is pleased to see this bill move forward, and are infinitely grateful to have such a bold leader in Senator Portantino,” stated Jessica Cruz, CEO of NAMI CA. “While the amendments we took in today’s hearing mean that mental health instruction will not reach as many children as we intended, NAMI-CA is committed to this fight — as we have been for the last eight years — so that all California students, as well as their families, will soon benefit from this movement.” More in the press release.
Petition in Support of SB 224
NAMI California is a proud co-sponsor of SB 224, a bill to provide California students in grades 1-12 with the mental health education they need. You can help support this legislation by signing the support letter.Sign our petition
30-Second Survey: Mental Health Education
Have you or someone you loved had mental health challenges as a youth? What kind of impact do you think would result from students in grades 1-12 receiving mental health education in schools? Take our 30-second survey on mental health education.