The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) is now offering its students access to school-based telehealth mental health services.

In a press release, LACOE said it is partnering with L.A. Care Health Plan, Health Net, and the L.A. County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) on the program, and said it will offer access to mental health services for L.A. County’s 1.3 million K-12 public school students.

“We continue to see the devastating impact the pandemic has had on our children’s mental well-being. This crisis has called us to collective action,” said Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Duardo.

“As a mental health professional, I am keenly aware that partnerships and collaboration across sectors are necessary to meet our children’s needs,” she said. “We must remove barriers to access and continue our efforts to destigmatize help-seeking around mental health. We must also recognize that physical and mental health is crucial to teaching and learning.”

The program partners are allocating $24 million over two years to fund the new services, which will be available at no cost to families. The funding comes from the Department of Health Care Services’ Student Behavioral Health Incentive Program (SBHIP), authorized by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Through the program, school-based telehealth company Hazel Health will use virtual care to deliver mental health support for all students. LACOE said this will result in shorter wait times to connect with qualified therapists, which will enable earlier intervention.

“Providing access to early intervention services, systematically, at this scale has the potential to change the trajectory for students struggling with mental health across L.A. County,” said Josh Golomb, Chief Executive Officer at Hazel Health. “This model provides more equitable access to care at an unprecedented rate for students from families who may otherwise not benefit from it and can truly change lives.”

Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in the county will need to opt-in to participate in the Hazel Health virtual mental health program. LACOE noted that LEAs, including Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Compton Unified School District, have already decided to participate in the program.

Hazel Health’s platform can match California-licensed therapists across the country with Los Angeles County public school students. LACOE also said that the partners are committed to connecting students to therapists who reflect and understand diverse populations. LACOE noted that more than 60 percent of Hazel Health therapists identify as people of color, and more than 30 percent are bilingual. “This commitment to culturally competent care is unique among service providers and reflects the LEAs’ commitment to equity and inclusion,” LACOE said

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