LOS ANGELES — Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced more than $480 million in grants to support children’s mental health. It’s part of the Governor’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, aimed at overhauling the mental health care system in California. 

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Newsom announced $480.5 million for 54 projects to support youth mental health

  • $54.7 million will go to Kedren Community Health Center in South LA

  • According to the governor’s office, two-thirds of children in California who are struggling with depression are doing so without treatment

The largest of those grants, $57.4 million, will go to the Kedren Community Health Center in South LA. The money will be used for a psychiatric acute care hospital and children’s village with 36 beds.

Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of the health center, spoke to Ariel Wesler about the funds on “Inside the Issues.” 

“How exciting would it be? Instead of going to an institution or hospital, you get to go to a children’s village where you’re really able to be cared for and be a kid and be safe while we look after improving your mental health and treating your mental illness,” he said. 

The money is coming when more children are dealing with mental health issues.

According to the governor’s office, over 284 thousand kids in California are struggling with major depression. Suicide rates for kids between the ages of 10 and 18 have increased 20% between 2019 and 2020. And two-thirds of California’s children living with depression are doing so without treatment. 

Dr. Abraham said the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the troubling statistics.

“We were isolated. We were going to school from home. There were a lot of challenges that we’ve never faced before,” he said. 

When asked about how the increase of depression and anxiety is impacting Black and Latino communities in the areas of South LA that he serves, Dr. Abraham said issues like dealing with racial injustice can contribute to the mental health burden.

“When you’re struggling to be recognized and when you’re fighting discrimination all the time. Those things contribute to your well-being,” he said.

The money is encouraging, but there are concerns about whether there are enough mental health workers to deliver the care that is needed.

A report from UC San Francisco found that by 2028, demand for psychologists and other therapists would be 40% more than the supply. That study is from 2018, two years before the pandemic led to a shortage of mental health workers.

“COVID did not help and we’re all burned out,” said Dr. Abraham. “You’re seeing people leaving the health professions, and this is exactly when we need more people to join the ranks.”

Part of Gov. Newsom’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health includes hiring and training 40,000 new professionals and working with 2,500 high school students interested in careers in mental health care. 

“I really think that ultimately we will get through these challenges when it comes to the mental health epidemic,” said Dr. Abraham. “But really we're going to have to come together and that includes coming together from the health care side, the physical health side, from the mental side and from the public health side.” 

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