Mental Health America of Northern California Assists in Passage of a Bill Aimed at Preventing Suicide and Mental Illness in Youth

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SB 543 Increases access to Mental Health Services for at-risk youth

Mental Health America of Northern California commends Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent signing of (SB 543), a billed aimed at improving access to Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth, into law.

Mental Health America of Northern California’s Youth Advocates involved in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual Questioning (LGBTQ) Collaborative, helped play a pivotal role in the passage of this bill, which expands access to services for youth. The focus of the bill is prevention and early intervention for youth by allowing them the opportunity for counseling without the need for parental consent.

This spring Youth advocates and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) activists made their voices heard at the State Capitol by meeting with their representatives and urging support for the bill. “This bill allows all youth in California the opportunity to seek mental health counseling without fear and discrimination. For many youth in many circumstances, parental consent may not be there. This can be a barrier towards preventing more serious mental health problems, including suicide. This is particularly relevant in today’s society where bullying, harassment, and discrimination are the norm in many schools,” said Susan Gallagher, Executive Director of Mental Health America of Northern California.

SB 543 was introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and is co-sponsored by Mental Health America of Northern California, GSA Network, Equality California, and the National Association of Social Workers California Chapter.

“We are incredibly grateful to Governor Schwarzenegger for signing this bill, which will help young people get the care they need before there is a crisis, and as a result, will help save many lives,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “Just this week, four young people took their lives after experiencing anti-gay bullying and anti-gay bias. We must act now to provide youth, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, strong support systems, and this bill does just that. As a society, we can no longer tolerate young people living in terror because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“I am pleased the governor signed this important legislation, which ensures all youth have better access to critical mental health services,” said Senator Leno. “Recently, four young people in our nation, including one in California, have taken their lives due to bullying because they were either perceived to be or identified as gay. We simply must do more to support and protect our young people in order to prevent tragedies like these from happening in the future, and SB 543 is a step in that direction.”

Mental Health America of Northern California is a nonprofit volunteer action agency, promoting access to culturally relevant mental health care, across the lifespan.

Contact: Susan Gallagher, Executive Director, (916) 366-4600.

Mental Health America of Northern California
9719 Lincoln Village Drive Ste 503, Sacramento, CA 95827-3331
Phone 916-366-4600 • Fax 916-855-5448
President of the Board - Richard Ikeda, MD •Executive Director - Susan Gallagher

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Stephanie Griggs

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