Today, Senator Anthony J. Portantino (La Canada – Flintridge) was recognized by the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA) as a Behavioral Health Champion for his steadfast leadership and advocacy on mental health policies.
“I see myself as just a dad who has the privilege to advocate for comprehensive mental health policies for families. So, it’s humbling to receive this honor,” stated Senator Portantino. “CBHA has been working hard for decades to provide resources and services that improve the mental health of those in need. I am proud to work alongside them to push forward policies that are critical to improving mental health outcomes and positively impact the lives of all our young people.”
The Behavioral Health Champion Award honors federal and state legislators who have been champions of behavioral health policies across the state and those who have demonstrated a willingness to use their position to fight for the behavioral health needs of Californians by introducing legislation and advancing policy change.
Senator Portantino has a strong record of advocating for mental health policies and has been dedicated to improving youth mental health outcomes during his time in public office. The Senator previously authored SB 972, which required schools to print the suicide hotline on student identification cards. He dedicated three years to pass SB 328, a policy which pushes back start times for middle and high schools. Scientific data and research show that later school start times lead to improved mental health for kids, with reductions in instances of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. For his past work, Senator Portantino received the Children’s Hero Award from the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and was recently recognized by Family Services Agency in Burbank.
This year, Senator Portantino authored multiple bills aimed at improving mental health outcomes for youth. SB 224 requires local educational agencies, which currently offer one or more courses in health education to middle or high school students, to include mental health content in those courses. It would also require that the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand mental health instruction in California public schools on or before January 1, 2024. SB 14, also introduced earlier this year by the Senator, requires the California Department of Education to recommend best practices and identify training programs to address youth behavioral health, including but not limited to, staff and pupil training. Additionally, the bill ensures that youth absences from school for mental health issues will be treated as an excused absence in the same way any other health issues are treated.
“This year’s awardees were no brainers for CBHA,” stated Dr. Le Ondra Clark Harvey, Chief Executive Officer for CBHA. “Senator Portantino in particular has been a staunch advocate for promoting prevention, early intervention and treatment of behavioral health disorders. He has been a leader in partnering with local school districts to ensure they have access to training that will enable school personnel and students to recognize the signs and symptoms of a behavioral health issue. He has successfully changed the start time of schools to ensure that students are mentally and physically ready to learn. He has led efforts to ensure that behavioral health excuses from school are dealt with at par with physical health excuses. The list could go on and on, but suffice it to say, he is our champion, and we could not be more proud and supportive of his work. Senator Portantino has consistently showed up for his constituents to push forward legislation that is innovative and beneficial to so many lives. For that, we honor him,” she added.
The California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies was founded in 1985 and is a statewide association of non-profit agencies dedicated to providing mental health and substance use disorder programs and services to those in need across the state. CBHA promotes comprehensive and integrated service systems by enhancing the ability of nonprofit member agencies to provide behavioral health services that empower the people they serve to lead full and productive lives.