Supervisors Move to Keep Mental Health Services for OC School Children

Mental health services for students at Orange County school districts will continue through June under a $4 million agreement with area districts approved this week by the Board of Supervisors.

The program, administered by the county Health Care Agency, served 1,680 school children in fiscal 2009-2010, county officials said.

Services offered through the program include mental health assessments, individual therapy, group therapy, case management, medication management and, in some cases, placement in residential care.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed more than $132 million that had been approved by the state legislature to reimburse counties statewide for five years of funding for the program.

A series of court cases are challenging the legality of Schwarzenegger’s veto. So far, the courts have ruled that the veto was legal but those decisions are likely to be appealed.

If the veto is upheld, it could mean counties no longer are required to provide the mental health services for school children.

In his budget proposal for 2011-2012, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed restructuring the mental health program. But details of how much money would be available and what that would mean locally won’t be known until the Legislature and governor agree on a budget.

Currently, both the state and federal government bear the cost of the program, but counties are required to provide the services.

In Orange County, the program costs about $16 million annually with about $12 million coming from the federal government. The state, before Schwarzenegger veto, was obligated to reimburse the county for the other roughly $4 million annually.

The new agreement calls for the county to now be reimburse that money by the school districts.

On July 1, a new fiscal year begins and the county should receive $12 million in federal funds, enough to carry the program for another nine months.



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