$5 Million Budgeted to Headshrink Kids In Ontario-Montclair & Chino School Districts

(May 21)  The Ontario-Montclair and Chino Valley Unified school districts will each utilize roughly $2.5 million in taxpayer funds to pay for psychiatric services being provided to their respective students for a three-year period running from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2018.
In the case of the Chino Valley Unified School District, which involves students from kindergarten through 12th grade, the district will pay $2,500,299 to the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health for the provision of school-based mental health services in its jurisdiction.
In the Ontario-Montclair School District, which serves students from kindergarten through the 8th grade, the district will pay $2,448,195 to the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health for the provision of school-based mental health services in its jurisdiction.
Not all of that money will come from those districts’ respective operating budgets, but will be provided in part through available funding from state and federal sources for benefiting students and enhancing the educational and social ambience in the concerned schools.
According to CaSonya Thomas, the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, “The Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) and Ontario-Montclair School District (OMSD) provide a range of mental health services that are tailored to meet the needs of students who are Medi-Cal beneficiaries, including assessments, crisis interventions, medication support, plan development, and therapy. In addition, services are provided to adolescents who are described as dually diagnosed, which is a designation to describe an individual who has a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. CVUSD and OMSD provide these school-based mental health services as required under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program, a federally mandated Medicaid option. The intent of the program is to extend Medi-Cal coverage to their students to assist in the identification of each student’s physical/mental needs and to provide appropriate treatment in order to correct and/or improve their physical/mental condition.”
Thomas said “The department of behavioral health anticipates that the school districts will provide services to approximately 5,619 students (1,873 annually) at an estimated cost of $881 per student. The department of behavioral health operates a continuum of care system that consists of county operated and contracted service providers delivering a variety of mental health treatment services within each geographic region of the county. Each provider has a specific responsibility and role within the county’s treatment delivery system. The goal of this delivery system is to support children, youth, and their families in achieving enhanced self-sufficiency through recovery, resiliency, and wellness. As the mental health plan administrator for the county, the department of behavioral health provides authorization and oversight for psychiatric inpatient hospital services and outpatient specialty mental health services in the most cost effective manner possible. In an effort to extend services to additional children and youth, CVUSD and OMSD approached the department of behavioral health in 2010 to request Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Medi-Cal funding, included in 2011 Realignment funding, to provide mental health services to students enrolled in their respective districts. CVUSD and OMSD pay the local match or agency match of 10%, allowing the school districts to draw down approximately 50% of Medi-Cal Federal Financial Participation and 40% of 2011 Realignment. This practice is allowable under the Code of Federal Regulations.”
The 2011 Realignment refers to the Budget Act of 2011, which includes a major realignment of public safety programs from the state to local governments and redirects California Department of Social Services’ funding to adoption services, foster care, child welfare services, and adult protective services, providing to local governments specified tax revenues to fund this effort.
The contracts with the Chino Valley Unified School District and the Ontario Montclair School District for school-based mental health services, Thomas said, “are possible due to the ability of school districts to contribute the required match for 2011 Realignment funding and their ability to leverage California Department of Education funding to offer school-based mental health services to children with disabilities and to children living in foster families.”
In Ontario, Montclair, Chino and Chino Hills, as well as throughout the county, there is concern about subjecting students to psychiatric care, treatment, monitoring and evaluation, either with or without parental consent, due to the stigma that is attached to mental illness or any indication thereof. Some parents have expressed varying levels of objection to the concept of in-school psychiatric service being foisted on their children, from mild resistance to outrage. One issue raised is that of privacy and the concern that word spreading among the peer group of a student undergoing psychiatric care that he/she is seeing a psychiatrist to deal with mental health issues could result in tremendous harm to the student/patient. Some parents have remarked that they have children in school to be educated and not to be psychoanalyzed.
In an effort to reassure the public on these issues, Teresa Frausto, M.D., the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health’s medical director, told the Sentinel “The San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health aims to ensure all of our clients are given strict confidentiality and receive the highest quality of care.  Children in schools have very diverse needs when it comes to mental health services. Those referred for services are assessed with parental consent and provided services in a confidential manner. The Department of Behavioral Health’s vision aligns with the Countywide Vision of achieving optimum wellness for all county residents.”

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