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Other Budget Issues

Last Updated: 3/9/2012
Budget Issue: Program elimination
Program: Early Mental Health Initiative (EMHI)
Finding or Recommendation: Adopt Governor's January budget proposal to eliminate program given school districts can use funding flexibility to provide early mental health services if they are a local priority.
Further Detail

Background. The EMHI program provides funding for local educational agencies (LEAs) to offer short-term prevention and intervention services to K-3 students who display difficulties adjusting to school. Typical activities include one-on-one or small group sessions that last 12 to 15 weeks and focus on developing students’ social and coping skills. The state spends $15 million annually in Proposition 98 funds to provide three cohorts of LEAs a total of about $5 million each year for three years. (A new cohort of about 50 LEAs is funded each year.) The LEAs are required to supplement program offerings by matching the grant amount with local funding or in-kind services. The California Department of Mental Health (DMH) traditionally has administered the program.

Governor Proposes to Eliminate $15 Million EMHI Appropriation, Redirect Funding to Other K-12 Purposes. As part of the 2011-12 budget package, the state eliminated the DMH, and currently is in the process of shifting administration and funding for all DMH programs to other state agencies. Correspondingly, responsibility for the EMHI program would shift to the California Department of Education (CDE). However, as part of his overarching approach to expand funding flexibility for school districts, the Governor proposes not to reestablish the EMHI program under CDE. The Governor instead redirects the $15 million to help support other K-12 Proposition 98 programs. In lieu of a statewide EMHI program, the Governor would allow any LEA—including those LEAs not currently receiving EMHI grants—to offer early intervention activities using their general purpose funding. Under the Governor’s proposal to remove spending requirements from a number of additional categorical programs, a greater proportion of LEA funding would be general purpose and available for locally determined priorities.

Recommend Adopting Proposal. We recommend that the Legislature adopt the Governor's proposal to (1) redirect $15 million in Proposition 98 funding from the EMHI program to other K-12 purposes and (2) not create a new state administrative structure for the program at CDE. Should LEAs believe that program activities are of high value, they could continue to offer them using general purpose funding.