National Center for Youth Law

Press Releases

Report to Help Children’s Mental Health Advocates Claim the Medi-Cal Entitlement

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January 7, 2021

Contact: Patty Guinto,


On behalf of the millions of California’s children entitled to mental health support and services, we are pleased to share this new report: Meeting the Moment: Improving EPSDT Implementation in California to Address Growing Mental Health Needs.” Envisioned by the California Children’s Trust (CCT), and written by the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), the report offers advocates and policymakers an overview and understanding of the Medicaid entitlement for children and youth under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) mandate as well as the complexities of California’s mental health system. The report also makes specific recommendations for how California can better fulfill its obligation under the Medi-Cal program to provide mental health services and support for our children and youth.

“California is failing to keep its promise to more than 5 million of our most vulnerable children. Eighty-one percent of children enrolled are non white, with the majority receiving no support for their social and emotional welfare. Our children deserve better than a system that is imprisoned in a medical model, with no clear locus of accountability, and which is only beginning to acknowledge the impact of race and trauma.” – Alex Briscoe, CCT

Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, must set the standard for children’s mental health care by ensuring children and youth have access to necessary services that were the promise of EPSDT. The promise is this:  All children and youth under age 21 on Medi-Cal are entitled to comprehensive screening and diagnostic services and must receive all of the services and supports necessary to address the issues identified during the screening.

“EPSDT is a broad legal entitlement that reflects the importance of promoting children’s healthy development through proactive identification and treatment of needs. At a time when California’s families are facing heightened challenges, it is especially crucial that the state meet its obligation to fully implement the EPSDT entitlement and ensure equitable access to mental health care.” – Rachel Velcoff Hults, NCYL

The release of “Meeting the Moment” is also particularly timely as the state re-engages in the CalAIM process, and undertakes the Medi-Cal managed care plan re-procurement process. This analysis provides an essential reference for these and future discussions about the EPSDT mandate for children and youth.

“California must ensure that all of its Medi-Cal-managed care plans are accountable for providing children and youth with mental health needs prevention, early intervention and treatment services through specific obligations under its contracts”. – Kim Lewis, NHeLP 

CCT, NCYL and NHeLP are proud to have partnered on this work to help fulfill the promise of providing prevention and treatment services for the mental health and well-being of California’s children and youth.

Hold the Date: Given the complexity and importance of this issue for advocates and policymakers, CCT is hosting a webinar on February 2nd, 12:00 – 1:30pm PST–bring your lunch and questions! Stay tuned for a registration invitation.

In partnership and appreciation –

  • Alex Briscoe, Principal, California Children’s Trust
  • Rachel Velcoff Hults,  Senior Equity and Access Attorney, Health, National Center for Youth Law
  • Kim Lewis, Managing Attorney, National Health Law Program

“Meeting the Moment” is a “companion piece” to the December 2020 national policy brief: Coverage of Services to Promote Children’s Mental Health, which CCT developed in partnership with Mental Health America and the Well Being Trust. That brief expertly laid out how current state Medicaid and commercial health insurance payment policies fail to adequately reimburse for effective interventions to promote positive child and family mental health—essentially overlooking or altogether violating vital federal protections for children’s well-being.