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California State Auditor Report Number : 2015-112

Student Mental Health Services
Some Students’ Services Were Affected by a New State Law, and the State Needs to Analyze Student Outcomes and Track Service Costs

January 19, 2016 2015-112

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning special education mental health services provided to students through individualized education programs (IEPs). Provisions of Assembly Bill 114 (AB 114)—which took effect in July 2011—transferred the responsibility for providing these services from county mental health departments to local educational agencies (LEAs).

This report concludes that in some cases LEAs removed mental health services from student IEPs because of AB 114 and that the California Department of Education (Education) and LEAs have not analyzed whether the mental health services provided since AB 114 took effect have benefited students. Education administers the State’s special education program through special education local plan areas (SELPAs), which are regional entities comprised of one or more LEAs. We reviewed student records across four SELPAs and found that LEAs removed mental health services from some students IEPs because of AB 114, and for other students we found that LEAs could not explain why services were removed from IEPs. Education has not conducted an analysis of the educational outcomes of the students who receive mental health services to determine whether the services are assisting students in accessing their education. This type of analysis is critical to determining whether the closer connection between these services and educational outcomes that some expected would occur has actually resulted in improved outcomes for students receiving these mental health services.

Another expectation at the time the Legislature approved AB 114 was that the transfer in responsibility for mental health services would result in a cost savings for providing those services. However, Education has not required LEAs to track their costs to provide the mental health services in student IEPs and, as a result, none of the LEAs we visited could report the total amount they spent to provide these services. We also found that, if county mental health departments use LEAs as contracted providers, the LEAs could access additional funding for mental health services through the California Medical Assistance Program. As a result, we recommend that the Legislature amend state law to require all county mental health departments to contract with LEAs in their county so that the State can maximize the funding for LEAs to provide mental health services.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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