Addressing the Youth Mental Health Crisis One Student at a Time

May 29, 2024

Meet Kay, a bright student from our local high school who has been facing tough times both in and out of the classroom. Recently, Kay has been absent frequently, and when she is at school, her once-vibrant demeanor has noticeably faded. Her peers, noting her repeated attire—often marked with stains—have pulled away, leaving her to sit alone during lunch. The shift was so dramatic that one concerned teacher took it upon herself to reach out to Kay, hoping to understand what was troubling her young student.

Kay’s story is far from unique. In California, an alarming one in thirteen children battles serious mental health conditions. Our youngest residents, some as young as five, are not immune to these challenges. Particularly affected are our Black and Latinx youth, who experience significantly higher rates of psychological distress. Moreover, non-English speaking children often struggle to find mental health care that resonates with their cultural needs.

In the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District, the ratio of mental health providers to students is a staggering 1 to 607. With the expiration of pandemic emergency funds, our already strained resources are on the brink of further depletion.

At the California Community Foundation (CCF), we believe every child, like Kay, deserves compassionate, accessible mental health care. Through the generosity of our donors, we’ve spearheaded initiatives to ensure that our youth do not slip through the cracks. From emergency telehealth services during the pandemic to facilitating state reimbursements for youth care, our commitment is unwavering. We also empower community advocates, training them to connect our Black and Latinx communities with dedicated mental health professionals.

Further strengthening our efforts, CCF has forged a vital partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Office of Violence Prevention. Supported by the American Rescue Plan Act, our Trauma Prevention Partnerships aim to prevent violence before it starts, respond effectively to crises, and foster environments where healing is central. Our initiatives encompass everything from combating gun and gang violence to nurturing the next generation of leaders through youth programs across Los Angeles County.

Some of our grantee partners include:

  • Helpline Youth Counseling, which convenes the Youth Services Policy Group. This group comprises Medi-Cal providers serving foster youth mental health needs and substance use services. This advocate group has successfully advised state and county officials on improving services for youth.
  • California Black Women’s Health Project Advocate Training Program. CABWHP trains advocates to address the mental health of girls and women across the state. They created a mental health toolkit that can be adapted by local groups.
  • EmpowHer Institute’s EmpowHer program serves 125 middle and high school girls who attend local Willowbrook schools. These students participate in EmpowHer Girls Academy (EGA) and EmpowHer Leaders Academy (ELA), completing nine-month modules of social-emotional learning, mentoring, and skills-based classes yearly, along with marine science-focused Social Justice STEAM Camp and paid summer internships.
  • Miry’s List currently assists recently arrived refugees, with a focus on individuals originating from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Their youth mental health program is designed to address various traumatic experiences like exposure to war, witnessing violence, abuse (physical, mental, and emotional), and secondary trauma such as domestic violence or parental stress and mental illness.
  • A Place Called Home youth members face diverse challenges, including complex trauma. Thus, the APCH Counseling Department is prepared to address abuse, domestic violence and community violence exposure, bullying, school fights, and other traumatic experiences. The counseling team serves over 400 youth annually and offers individual, group and family therapy, youth-led peer support groups, and parent-focused support groups.
  • Providence Health Services and Dignity California Hospital Medical Center partnered to provide Youth Mental Health First Aid and Mind Matters training to schools and community groups in the South Los Angeles/Centinela region. Trainings are delivered in English or Spanish. Staff can identify crises in. youth and provide stress management tools for caregivers.
  • SHIELDS for Families is a mental health and substance use services provider that serves children and families in South LA. They received capacity-building support to increase their ability to operate as a Medi-Cal provider for youth with behavioral health issues and people experiencing homelessness.
  • Southern California Health and Rehabilitation Program offers specialized and age-appropriate supportive mental health services to the unserved, underserved, or inappropriately served (transitional age youth) TAY. These are young adults who are unwilling or cannot access mental health services in traditional mental health settings due to personal preference, stigma, and/or difficulty accessing services related to geographic, transportation, or physical disabilities.
  • Southern California Counseling Center helps youth in the community of Watts overcome the impact of long-term trauma, violence, racism, and discrimination. SCCC-Watts seek to reduce recidivism rates among the formerly incarcerated, offer youth alternatives to rage and violence in reaction to pain and conflict, assist families as they navigate the child protective services program, and support mothers dealing with mental health challenges.

CCF fundholders who wish to support these efforts through their donor-advised fund may make grants directly on DonorConnect. For any donor inquiries, please contact your Relationship Manager or email

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