Upland Schools Mental Health Budget Eight Times That For Ontario & Chino Schools

A combination of federal, state and school district money will be used to provide a half million dollars worth of psychiatric services annually over the next three years to students in the Upland Unified School District.
The $1,500,000 cost for school-based mental health services through the end of the school year in 2018 will be funded with 50 percent Medi-Cal Federal Financial Participation, 36 percent available 2011 Realignment revenue, and a 14 percent agency match funded by the school district..
According to CaSonya Thomas, the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, “Upland Unified School District provides a range of mental health services 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. Upland Unified School District provides these school-based mental health services as required under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) 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 district will provide services to approximately 202 students (approximately 67 annually) at an estimated cost of $7,426 per student.”
This is in stark contrast to the cost of a similar program in the Ontario-Montclair and Chino Valley Unified school districts, where roughly $2.5 million in taxpayer funds is budgeted for psychiatric services being provided to approximately 5,619 students (1,873 annually) at an estimated cost of $881 per student.
County officials said that the $7,426 per student figure for Upland Unified merely reflected the amount of money budgeted for the program based upon an initial projection of how many students in that district might need services. The budgeted amount was unlikely to equal the actual amount to be spent on the program per student in actuality, they said. The reason that the budget in Upland was based on projections, county officials said, was because the program is just being initiated there and, in contrast, it has been in place in Ontario-Montclair and in Chino Unified for some time.
“This is the initial contract for school based services with Upland Unified School District,” Karen Cervantes of the department of behavioral health told the Sentinel. “The contract includes an estimate of the cost per student as well as startup costs. Actual cost per student will depend on the amount of service individual students receive and that will vary by student. The actual cost will become clear as student services are provided. The average cost for school based services per student in San Bernardino county is approximately $3,400. The estimation of a higher cost does not incur expenses or affect the county. Any unused funds will amount to cost savings.”
The contract with Upland Unified School District for school-based mental health services, Thomas said, “is possible due to the ability of the school district to contribute the required match for 2011 Realignment funding and their ability to leverage State Department of Education funding to offer school-based mental health services to children with disabilities and to children living in foster families. Based on the critical need for school-based mental health services for students, the department of behavioral health is requesting approval of the non-competitive contract with Upland Unified School District to provide specialty mental health services to their students. [The county] purchasing [department] classifies the contract as specialized services as the school district provides services to students within their districts without utilizing any local dollars.”
Previously, in response to concern in the Ontario-Montclair and Chino Unified school districts 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, 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.”

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