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CalOptima Health Integrating Care Through School District Partnerships

CalOptima says managed care plan partnerships with school districts across Orange County will increase behavioral health care access for children and youth

November 2, 2022CalOptima Health, announced its intent to enter into agreements with school districts to boost access to behavioral health care. These services will be for K-12 students in public schools throughout Orange County. Currently, 17 school districts have expressed their intent to participate. 

Through the new statewide initiative called the Student Behavioral Health Incentive Program (SBHIP), CalOptima will administer up to $25 million in incentives for school districts to improve their behavioral health systems. These funds will enable increased resources, including more counselors, telehealth services, wellness programs, crisis screenings, and other essential services. 

The World Health Organization notes that half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age and 45% of California youth from ages 12 to 17 reported struggling with mental health issues recently. This makes schools the perfect battleground to provide care and meet behavioral health issues head on. As Carmen Katsarov, Executive Director of Behavioral Health Integration at CalOptima, notes, the overall goal is to increase access to preventative and early intervention behavioral health care in schools. 

“As a managed care plan, we don’t ordinarily work with schools, even though we know that a lot of our members that have our Medi-Cal CalOptima health insurance go to school,” Katsarov stated in an interview. “They’re accessing behavioral health services during the day, and they also have the need for the services. [This is] going to bring all the different systems together that are serving our children in Orange County so that we can streamline those services and have better access for these children. We’re really just trying to work on the whole delivery system] that’s very complicated and more siloed.”

Implementation of SBHIP initiatives will start in 2023 and will continue through 2024. The overall goal of SBHIP is to utilize the funds to create sustainable behavioral health system enhancements that stretch beyond the end of the program in 2024. 

To learn more about the Student Behavioral Health Incentive Program (SBHIP), click here.

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