Mental Health Education (2021)

SB 224 (Portantino)
UPDATE: Governor Newsom Signs SB 224

SB 224 ensures that middle and high school health courses include instruction on mental health and wellness, and requires the state to develop a plan to expand mental health instruction in California public schools by January 1, 2024.

Children and youth are experiencing escalating mental health needs and face numerous barriers to accessing care and support. According to a recent Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance, California ranks 48th in the nation for providing children with needed mental health care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, youth faced many new and heightened stressors, such as fears of illness and death, grief, educational instability, and food, housing, and economic insecurity. Early data indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating children’s mental health needs. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that beginning in April 2020, the proportion of mental-health related emergency department visits among all pediatric emergency department visits increased by 24% for children ages 5-11 and by 31% for children ages 12-17.

It is critical that California equip all of its students with the information and tools necessary to promote positive mental health, and to seek mental health support and treatment when needed. The education SB 224 provides will help increase awareness, empower students to seek support, and reduce the stigma associated with experiencing mental health challenges.

SB 224 will:

  • Require middle and high school health courses to include instruction in mental health.
  • Require that the instruction include, among other things, reasonably designed instruction on the overarching themes and core principles of mental health and promotion of wellness and protective factors.
  • Require that the instruction and related materials, among other things, be appropriate for use with students of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English learners.
  • Require that by January 1, 2024, the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand mental health education in California public schools.

NCYL is partnering with a broad coalition, including the California Alliance of Children Family Services, NAMI California, California Association of Student Councils, California Youth Empowerment Network, GENup, Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (MHSOAC), and The Children’s Partnership. We are proud to be working with the following legislators:

Author: Sen. Anthony Portantino

Joint author: Sen. Susan Rubio

Co-authors: Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, Assembly Member Autumn Burke, Senator Dave Cortese, Senator Bill Dodd, Assembly Member Jim Frazier, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia, Senator Steve Glazer, Senator Ben Hueso, Senator Melissa Hurtado, Assembly Member Tasha Boerner Horvath, Assembly Member Tom Lackey, Senator John Laird, Assembly Member Evan Low, Assembly member Brian Maienschein, Senator Janet Nguyen, Senator Jim Nielsen, Assembly Member Robert Rivas, Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez, Assembly Member Miguel Santiago, Senator Nancy Skinner, Senator Tom Umberg