The US faces a youth behavioral health crisis, with increasing child and adolescent mental health hospitalizations, suicide rates, and overdose deaths exacerbated by the pandemic. Telemedicine in schools can provide access to much-needed mental health care and help mitigate the limited supply of pediatric mental health specialists in some geographic regions.
In California, fewer than 1,135 child and adolescent psychiatrists serve almost 10 million children and teens younger than 18 years. The shortage of mental health providers is especially problematic in poor, rural areas. School-based health care is a powerful tool for achieving health equity among children and adolescents who unjustly experience disparities in outcomes because of their race, ethnicity, and family income.
Hazel Health is the largest provider in the country of virtual high-quality physical and behavioral health care to K–12 students. Its network of culturally competent pediatric clinicians works with school-based nurses, social workers, and counselors who coordinate care for students to help them stay healthy and ready to learn. The company offers four behavioral health services: screening and assessments, crisis intervention, case management, and talk therapy sessions. The company works with 17 school districts representing nearly 250,000 students, with their most extensive presence in San Bernardino, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus Counties.
CHCF has made a program-related investment in Hazel Health to pilot the delivery of virtual mental health services in California school districts. The pilot will aid in developing a sustainable approach to filling gaps in behavioral health care access for students by collaborating with Medi-Cal managed care plans and other community providers.