Mental Health

The mental health of an individual is inextricably linked to some of the greatest health challenges of our society.

Working with our state and local partners, the Office of the California Surgeon General is advancing systemic reforms that recognize and respond to the mental health crisis – with equity as our north star. Key among our efforts is the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative.

Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative

The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) is a $4.7 billion investment to enhance, expand and redesign the systems that support behavioral health for children and youth.


The goal of the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative is to reimagine the systems that support behavioral health and wellness for California’s children and youth into an innovative, up-stream focused, ecosystem. This ecosystem will focus on promoting wellbeing and preventing behavioral health challenges, and on routinely screening, supporting, and serving ALL children and youth for emerging and existing behavioral health needs, including mental health and substance use.

    • Advance Equity: ALL children, youth and their families have access to linguistically, culturally, and developmentally appropriate services and supports
    • Designed for Youth by Youth: Children and youth are engaged in the design and implementation of services and supports; ensuring that programs center on their needs
    • Start Early, Start Smart: The systems that support children, youth and their families act early by promoting positive mental health and reducing risk for more significant mental health needs and challenges
    • Center around Children and Youth: Across all levels of government, child- and youth-serving agencies form coordinated systems of care to deliver high-quality behavioral health programs responsive to the needs of youth and their families
    • Empower Families and Communities: People who teach, work with or care for children and youth are equipped to recognize signs of poor mental health or substance use and know how to access supports
    • Right Time, Right Place: Youth and children can access high-quality care and information when they need it — including early mornings, evenings, and weekends and where they need it — including where they live, learn, and play
    • Free of Stigma: Children, youth and their families can talk about their mental health and well-being and seek help without feeling ashamed or fearing discrimination

California Surgeon General and CYBHI

The Office of the California Surgeon General manages two work streams of the CYBHI:


The Office of the California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) was allocated $1 million under the CYBHI to develop a trauma-informed training for the early childcare and education sector. Early childcare providers, educators and school personnel shall be provided the training and tools to recognize and respond to Adverse Childhood Experiences and the toxic stress response. When school personnel understand and can respond with trauma-informed principles, they can help to create safe and supportive learning environments for everyone, allowing educators to be more effective and helping children to be happier and healthier. The training will be delivered virtually and designed as three two-hour modules aimed at adults working with young people ages: 0-5, 6-11, and 12-18.



The training will be released in the summer of 2023. The CA-OSG is partnering with several state partners as well as an Expert Review Panel to ensure that the training leverages and builds upon existing trainings and best practices in the field. Our state partners include the Preschool Development Grant team at California Health and Human Services Agency, the California Department of Social Services, the California Department of Education, and the California State Board of Education. Leading the effort from the CA-OSG is Janne Olson-Morgan, Director of Strategic Partnerships.

Meet the Expert Review Panel

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Dr. Joshua Sparrow

Joshua Sparrow, M.D., DFAACAP, is executive director of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center (BTC) in the Division of Development of Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he also holds an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry, and is an associate professor at Harvard Medical school, part time. Dr. Sparrow’s care in the 1990s for children hospitalized for severe psychiatric disturbances, often associated with physical and sexual abuse, and for developmental delays aggravated by social and economic deprivation and injustice, prompted his interest in the social determinants of health, racial health inequities, trauma and historical trauma, and community-based prevention and health promotion. At BTC, Dr. Sparrow’s work focuses on organizational learning and change, and aligning systems of care with community strengths and priorities. BTC provides professional, organizational and leadership development, community based participatory research, and developmental program evaluation for family-facing professionals in pediatrics, early childhood care and education, infant mental health, home visiting, child welfare, public libraries and children’s museums. Dr. Sparrow began working with young children at age 13 and did so every summer through most of college. After graduating from college, he taught in preschools (2 year old and 4 year old classrooms) for a few years before deciding to go to medical school.

Mx. Wendy Marroquin

Wendy Marroquin is currently a high school senior at USC Hybrid High, located in Los Angeles, California. They hope to major in Public Health or Political Science when they head to college next year. Wendy is driven by a passion for pursuing equity in the healthcare field for all stakeholders. When they’re not at school, they love to cook and support their family.

Dr. Cheryl Williams-Jackson

Dr. Cheryl Williams-Jackson is a Human Services, Child Development, and Psychology professor at Modesto Junior College. She holds a doctor of psychology degree in clinical psychology and additional degrees in educational psychology with an emphasis on child development. She has served as an early childhood mental health consultant with Alameda Family Services. In addition, she provides training sessions nationally focusing on mental health issues and cultural competency building in educational and mental health settings. Professor Williams-Jackson was a 2015-2016 Simms-Mann Fellow and researched trauma-informed care in educational settings. As a method of teaching people about trauma-informed care, she’s spent time studying how to reduce traumatic experiences in educational settings.

Ms. Lindsey Fuller

Lindsey Fuller is an unapologetic and passionate advocate for scholars and marginalized communities. Prior to joining The Teaching Well where she leads as the Executive Director, she served as a 1st and 6th grade teacher, and elementary school administrator, and District Leader in the position of Regional Director of Student Services. In that role, she supported 11 Bay Area schools and led all non-academic initiatives, including mental health programming, behavioral supports, socio-emotional learning, and crisis management.  Through her private practice, Fuller Freedom Consulting, as well as TTW she strives to sustain adults in our schools to ensure trauma-sensitive continuity of care. She is a trainer in Restorative Practices (IIRP) and is state certified as a Mediator (CCEJ). Lindsey is a native of the Oakland/Berkeley community, the child of two educators, and mother of two.

Ms. Susan Andrien

Susan Andrien LMFT, is a Phase 2 trainer in The Neurosequential Model, a neurodevelopmentally informed approach to clinical problem solving and a certified Forest Therapy practitioner. With more than 25 years of experience working with children and families heavily impacted by trauma, Susan founded Hope Reimagined, a Mental Health & Educational Support Services organization with a mission to better support communities, schools and families to be relationally rich environments informed by neurophysiology. Susan is the Co-Host of The Awakening Educator, a podcast that explores unique perspectives to the topics most relevant to people who support our youth in today’s complex world.

Dr. Pamela Cantor

Pamela Cantor, M.D. is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, author, and thought leader on human potential, the science of learning and development, and educational equity. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, she founded Turnaround for Children, which translates scientific insights into tools and services that help educators establish the conditions for all students to thrive. In two books published in 2021, Whole-Child Development, Learning and Thriving: A Dynamic Systems Approach and The Science of Learning and Development, Dr. Cantor crystallizes key scientific concepts about how human potential and learning unfold so that anyone seeking to open pathways for learning and opportunity for young people can do so. She is a featured contributor to Edutopia’s How Learning Happens series which has been viewed more than 15 million times. Dr. Cantor is a governing partner of the Science of Learning and Development Alliance, a member of the Brookings Institution’s Task Force on Next Generation Community Schools, and a Commissioner of the Learning 2025 Commission of the American Association of School Superintendents. She received an M.D. from Cornell University, a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and was a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Ms. Kadija Johnston

Kadija Johnston, LCSW, is an independent consultant and Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Child and Human Development contributing her expertise and experience in early childhood mental health consultation to the SAMHSA supported Center of Excellence in ECMH Consultation and the National Center of Health Behavioral Health and Safety for Head Start. Ms. Johnston is the past Director of the Infant-Parent Program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where she pioneered the program’s approach to Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation and has disseminated the approach nationally and internationally. Ms. Johnston writes and lectures nationally on infant and early childhood mental health. She co-authored the book Mental Health Consultation in Child Care: Transforming Relationships With Directors, Staff, and Families. She serves as a subject matter expert on perinatal, infant, and early childhood mental health, trauma informed and healing practices in early childhood education, reflective supervision, and equity and anti-racist practices in early childhood settings and systems.

Dr. Rachel Gilgoff

As a board-certified general pediatrician, child abuse pediatrician, and integrative medicine specialist, Dr. Gilgoff brings a multidisciplinary approach to ACEs, toxic stress, healing, and well-being. Over the course of her career, she has been a co-investigator of the Pediatric ACEs Screening and Resilience Study (PEARLS), the Medical Director of the Clinical Innovations and Research Team within Center for Youth Wellness, and co-founder of the National Committee on Asthma and Toxic Stress. She co-developed the Resiliency Clinic, a group clinic intervention model to treat toxic stress, and more recently, co-created VITAL: Relational Health, a free, on-line learning series on the science and practice of relational health.  She is currently an advisor with the California Aces Aware Initiative and the Office of the California Surgeon General, and a co-PI on “Systems-based, Multidisciplinary Assessment of Adversity and Toxic Stress for Individualized Care (The SYSTEMAATIC Project),” an ACEs and Precision Medicine research project through the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine (CIAPM).  Dr. Gilgoff is dedicated to addressing health issues resulting from child abuse and toxic stress, creating systems of care that incorporate the science of stress biology and wellness, and collaborating across sectors to develop multidisciplinary, integrative, human-centered, and holistic approaches to healing.

Ms. Sade Ayaji

Born and raised in Sacramento, Sade grew up being witnessed on how power and policy moved in the lives of marginalized communities. Seeing the disparities of her community and those alike, she grew passionate about liberation, inclusion and redistribution of wealth. She received her B.A in African American Studies with a minor in Public Policy from UCLA. Her previous involvements include: Million Dollar Hoods, Community Coalition, and Justice LA work group. Upon her relocation to Sacramento, she is passionate about paying it forward and working with youth communities of Sacramento. Sade currently serves as the Program Coordinator for United College Action Network’s Girls Empowerment Mentoring and Support Program (GEMS) and President’s Youth Council Member for the California Endowment. She is focused on challenging the punitive effects adultification bias has on girls of color, and actively creating mental wellness solutions. Her long term career goal is to receive her Juris Doctorate degree from Georgetown Law.

Dr. Joyce Dorado

Joyce Dorado is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, UCSF-Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and the Co-Founder and Director of UCSF Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS). Dr. Dorado is a nationally recognized expert in partnering with schools and other youth-serving systems to create trauma-informed, equitable, and healing organizations. She serves as an appointed member of the California State Supreme Court Justice’s statewide steering committee for the Keeping Kids in School and Out of Courts initiative. She is also the Lead Curriculum Developer, a Master Trainer, and a member of the founding workgroup for the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) Trauma-Informed Systems Initiative, and provides training and consultation across the Bay Area in collaboration with Trauma Transformed: Bay Area Regional Trauma-Informed Systems Center. Additionally, she has served as a lead consultant in CLEAR California, a partnership between the Washington State University CLEAR program and UCSF HEARTS.

Dr. Dorado has worked with children, youth, and families who have experienced trauma for 29 years, has provided presentations and trainings on addressing complex trauma in children and adolescents for 20 years, has been invited to speak about addressing trauma in schools at numerous regional, national, and international conferences and events, and is a published author.

Dr. Shawn Ginwright

Shawn Ginwright, PhD is one of the nation’s leading innovators, provocateurs, and thought leaders on African American youth, youth activism, and youth development. He is Professor of Education in the Africana Studies Department and a Senior Research Associate at San Francisco State University. His research examines the ways in which youth in urban communities navigate through the constraints of poverty and struggle to create equality and justice in their schools and communities. Dr. Ginwright is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flourish Agenda, Inc., a national nonprofit consulting firm, whose mission is to design strategies that unlock the power of healing and engage youth of color and adult allies in transforming their schools and communities. In 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Fulbright Senior Specialist award from the State Department for his outstanding research and work with urban youth. Dr. Ginwright is the author of “The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves,” “Hope and Healing in Urban Education: How Activists and Teachers are Reclaiming Matters of the Heart”, “Black in School- Afrocentric Reform, Black Youth and the Promise of Hip-Hop Culture” and co-editor of” Beyond Resistance!: Youth Resistance and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America’s Youth” and in 2010 he publishedBlack Youth Rising, Activism and Radical Healing in Urban America”.

Dr. Ginwright served as Chairman of the Board for The California Endowment (TCE) from 2018 to 2021, with oversight of a $3 billion endowment to improve the health of California’s underserved communities. He continues to serve on TCE’s Board of Directors, and also serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning at the Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tuffs University. Dr. Ginwright lives in Oakland, California with his lovely wife and is currently an empty-nester—both children are in college.

Mr. Ricky Robertson

Ricky Robertson (he/him) is an educator, author, and consultant who assists schools across the country in developing culturally responsive trauma-informed systems of support that foster resilience and success for staff, students, and families. Ricky has guided schools, districts, and state departments of education in learning about the impact of ACEs and trauma and the critical role of protective factors in fostering resilient schools and communities. He has assisted schools in developing and implementing trauma-informed practices that have positively impacted student behavior, academic achievement, and social-emotional development, while cultivating educator well-being and efficacy. 

As a teacher and Behavior Intervention Specialist, Ricky had the privilege to work with students from pre-K to 12th grade who persevered in the face of adversity and trauma. He began his career in education teaching in one of New York City’s highest performing high-poverty public schools. He went on to teach in both alternative and public school settings for students who were previously incarcerated and/or pushed out of school. During this time, Ricky created partnerships between schools, community organizations, and businesses to create learning and employment opportunities for historically marginalized students. He was featured on PBS’s American Graduate in 2013 as a result of this work. Along with Victoria Romero and Amber Warner, Ricky co-authored the Corwin Press bestselling book, “Building Resilience in Students Impacted by Adverse Childhood Experiences: A Whole-Staff Approach.” In this book, Ricky and his co-authors presented a trauma-informed framework that was included in the Office of the California Surgeon General’s Roadmap for Resilience as an example of best practices for schools to support children impacted by ACEs. In recent years, Ricky’s work has evolved to include partnerships with state and federal legislators in an effort to develop policies and initiatives that broaden access to trauma-informed care in schools and beyond. Ricky’s deep respect for young people and the educators who serve them continue to inspire his work today. 

Dr. Natalie Turner-Depue

Dr. Natalie Turner-Depue is a licensed mental health counselor and a nationally-certified trainer in the Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency (ARC) Framework. To date, she has provided training and consultation to over 15,000 people on how complex trauma exposure can impact early childhood development, behavior, learning and socialization. For the past fourteen years, Dr. Turner-Depue has directed multiple CAFRU projects, including leading a large multi-year State of Washington evaluation of a large consortia program addressing high-risk children in schools and co-developing the Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resilience (CLEAR) model for implementing trauma-informed practices through a whole-systems approach.

Currently, Dr. Turner-Depue serves as the interim Director for the CAFRU and CLEAR Trauma Center at Washington State University. Her research focus is on integrating trauma-informed practices into schools and community organizations throughout the western US while dismantling systemic barriers impeding equitable educational access.

WestEd Personnel Supporting the Project

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Dr. Christina Pate

Christina Pate, PhD (she/her), is Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Center to Improve Social & Emotional Learning and School Safety and leads WestEd’s Safe and Supportive Learning Environments body of work. She previously served as the Director of the Equity Accelerator funded by the Bechtel Family Foundation, was the Technical Assistance Lead for the National Institute of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative in Atlanta Public Schools, and was a Project Director and TA Liaison for SAMHSA’s Project AWARE at the Now is the Time TA Center. Pate has extensive experience in education, public health, wellness services, and service systems and brings a range of expertise in strategic planning, systems thinking, social-emotional development and mental health, leadership and collaboration, and organizational climate and culture. Pate supports the agency to develop work that fosters adult wellbeing, cultivates stakeholder voice and co-design, centers equity, promotes trauma-informed practice and resilience, and improves cross-sector collaboration to improve outcomes for individuals and systems. Pate has supported clients in expanding their leadership and collaboration capacity to shift mindsets and facilitate transformation as well as build infrastructure and coordinate systems across sectors. She has also coached clients in implementation and sustainability efforts across state and local child-serving systems to promote healthy development and to connect individuals with services and supports. Pate has a teaching certificate (MO), is a certified school counselor (MO), is a nationally certified school psychologist, and has worked in schools in various educator roles for 10 years.

Mr. Tye Ripma

Tye Ripma is a Senior Associate at WestEd. In this role, he facilitates local-and state-level system change initiatives and engages in research, evaluation, and technical assistance activities to help state leaders evaluate and improve education policy. Ripma is also a doctoral student in Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. In this capacity, he conducts research and writes about issues of equity and inclusion, race and disproportionality, and governance and accountability in special education. Ripma is a former paraprofessional, special education teacher, and related services provider. He has an MA in education from Stanford University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Ms. Deborah Greenwald

Deborah Greenwald has over three decades of experience in the infant/family field. She joined WestEd in 2002 as a Senior Program Associate with the Center for Child and Family Studies. Greenwald’s primary strengths and areas of expertise are in infant and toddler development and care, educating adults about these topics, and developing andragogical resources (print, video, and digital) to strengthen the infant/family field. Currently, Greenwald leads a WestEd team that is developing interactive learning modules for an online professional development institute. She previously led the WestEd team in the State Capacity Building Center’s Infant/Toddler Specialist Network and was that group’s project lead for developing an Infant/Toddler Resource Guide website. She directed the redesign of the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) Trainer Certification Institute and has been on the PITC faculty since 2001. Greenwald was a key content developer on the online Infant/Toddler Degree for the Office of Head Start. She directed the Infant/Toddler Guidelines Project for the California Department of Education and has contributed to the design, development, production, and revision of multiple resources, books, and digital learning content. Prior to working at WestEd, Greenwald spent 15 years working in infant/toddler group care. She also taught parent/infant guidance classes and was an infant/toddler specialist in a resource and referral agency.

Dr. Faith Polk

Faith Polk is a Senior Program Associate in the Center for Child and Family Studies (CCFS) Program at West Ed.  Dr. Polk collaborates with the content development team for the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning, an Office of Head Start funded project, to support the implementation of evidence-based teaching practices that contribute to positive child outcomes. Her areas of expertise include early childhood educator preparation and workforce development, Dual Language Learners, child assessment, and emergent literacy development. Prior to joining WestEd, Dr. Polk, a former National Board Certified Teacher (Early Childhood/Generalist), was an Associate Professor and Chair of Early Childhood Education, a California Preschool Instructional Network Lead, and a Program Specialist for the Pre-Intern Teacher Program. She began her career as a kindergarten teacher where she grew her passion for both early care and education and teacher preparation.

Ms. Nakanya Magby

Nakanya Magby is a Senior Program Associate in WestEd’s Resilient and Healthy Schools and Communities (RHSC) area. In this capacity, she provides coaching, training, and curriculum development in areas related to school climate and culture, trauma-informed practices, and equitable practices. Most recently, she served as a school climate and culture specialist at the state level in Washington, DC, providing professional development, technical assistance, and coaching for a safe and supportive school climate to include multi-tiered systems of support and trauma-informed and equitable practices. Nakanya has over 20 years of experience in education and mental health, having previously worked as a special educator, school counselor, dean of students, and district-and state-level specialist. Nakanya holds a BA in Psychology at Howard University and an MA in Counseling psychology at Bowie State University.

Ms. Theresa Pfister

Theresa Pfister is a Program Associate on the Resilient & Healthy Schools & Communities Team. She supports with technical assistance and communications and dissemination. Her areas of expertise include adolescent development, social-emotional learning, and equity. Theresa is earning her PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Virginia. Her previous work includes working with high school students and their families.

Ms. Kai Kaiser

Kai Kaiser provides relationship-based professional development experiences and encourages courageous conversations through advocacy, curriculum development, and community-based presentations. As an educational leader, Kaiser is committed to inspiring professionals and improving experiences for children and families by integrating diverse perspectives and generating creative solutions. Additionally, she serves as Associate Faculty for the Child Development and Education department at Saddleback College. Kaiser enjoys supporting the unique needs of adult learners, and she currently teaches courses in which students explore child development, partnership with families, evidence-based practices, legal aspects, and practical strategies related to inclusive early childhood experiences for all children. She has worked with children, families, and early childhood professionals in a variety of settings during the past 30 years. Kaiser has served as a special education teacher, college instructor, early intervention director, and training/technical assistance provider. Additionally, she has held teaching and administrative positions in inclusive early childhood programs, where she learned the importance of building relationships, creating nurturing environments, and providing responsive care for children and families.


The CA-OSG is developing a $24 million public awareness campaign on ACEs and toxic stress, set to launch in 2023. The campaign will aim to increase public understanding of ACEs and toxic stress, emphasizing that toxic stress is a treatable health condition and there are resources available for screening, treatment and prevention. The campaign will share practical strategies for how parents and caregivers can support children and youth who are experiencing stress and adversity – by helping them cope in ways that can turn off their stress response systems. Leading the effort from the CA-OSG is Julie Rooney, Director of Communications.


Additional Background + Featured Resources

ACEs Storytelling: An Educator’s Story

A video featuring students and educators at a Sonoma County high school who discuss ACEs and the powerful role educators play in buffering the toxic stress response for youth.

ACEs Storytelling: A Provider’s Story

Dr. Eric Ball, a pediatrician at Children’s Health of Orange County, shares the impact of COVID-19 on his patients’ mental health, why he screens for ACEs, and how he uses resiliency tools to best serve his patients and strengthen his team and practice.

ACEs Storytelling: Understanding ACEs with Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

In the fourth video of the ACEs Storytelling series, you will hear from California’s first Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris about the science behind Adverse Childhood Experiences and toxic stress and why there is hope for healing—at any age.