Settlement reached in foster care, mental health case

California will be required to overhaul its system for providing mental health services for foster care children under a preliminary settlement announced by the state and disability advocacy groups Wednesday.

Sad girl with hands on chin, blue sweater and blonde hair
Mental health needs addressed

The settlement, expected to be approved in December, would require the state to create state standards, training and monitoring to ensure that all of the state’s counties are working to ensure that mental health services are available to the 61,000 children in the state’s foster care program, the nation’s largest. It will also require the state to provide  “Intensive Home-Based Services” and “Intensive Care Coordination,” to Medicaid-eligible children, the vast majority of the children in the state’s foster care system.

“The settlement brings California into line with modern mental health practice,” said Ira Burnim of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in a news release from the National Center for Youth Law. “We are delighted to see the state step up and put into place a system that will address the mental health needs of some of California’s most vulnerable children.”

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed nine years ago against Los Angeles County. The parties reached a settlement in 2003. The plaintiffs had been negotiating with state officials regarding the current settlement for nearly two years.

The settlement requires the state to implement the plan within six months after the plan is approved.

“These services will ensure that thousands of Medicaid-eligible children obtain access to the mental health services they need to live in a family and succeed in school and later life,” said Robert Newman, attorney for the plaintiffs, from the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Along with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the National Health Law Program and the Western Center for Law and Poverty, the plaintiffs were represented by Disability Rights California the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the National Health Law Program

Disability Rights California is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.