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School Districts Again Responsible for Mental Health Services


Last week, California returned full legal responsibility for providing educationally-related mental health services to special education students back to school districts. 

 Para leer esta nota en español, favor de hacer clic aquí.

This crucial program for providing mental health services for children is known as AB 3632, or, in some counties, "Chapter 26.5" or "AB 2726."  

What has Changed: The legislature's action means that your school district will now be responsible for all of the services that used to be provided jointly by your school and your county department of mental health.  School districts are receiving millions of dollars from the federal and state governments to provide these services to your children. The program for providing mental health services has NOT ended --- the only change is which government agency is primarily responsible for paying. 

We are hopeful that this will mean improvements in services, quicker services, and additional services for your children, not fewer services or changes in providers!

MOST IMPORTANT: Under federal law, your child has a right to the same services he or she received before!

As always, your child's school CANNOT change any services or providers until they hold an IEP meeting and you agree with the changes they propose.  This right is called stay put because it is your child's right to "stay put" with their current services and placement until you and the school agree on new placements or services.  If you do not agree with the changes your school proposes, you have the right to say no and keep your child in "stay put" until the dispute is resolved by a court.

For example, if your school district says:  Because of the budget bill, your child can no longer see his current mental health therapist or your child can no longer stay at his residential placement due to the change in law, you may say no and assert your right to "stay put."

You have the right to talk to an attorney.  If you have any questions or run into any problems, please contact Public Counsel Law Center at (213) 385-2977, extension 500, Disability Rights California at 510-267-1200, or Mental Health Advocacy Services at (213) 389-2077.  Our agencies provide free legal services to low-income families and children with special needs. 

The California Office of Administrative Hearings also keeps a list of free and low-cost attorneys who are willing to help parents like you.  You can call them to request a copy at (916) 263-0550, or if you have internet access, a copy is available online at: http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/oah/SE/SE%20advocacy%20list.pdf.

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