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


January 2023 Progress Report

The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) released a progress report highlighting the first 18 months of the initiative to transform the way California serves the mental, emotional and behavioral health needs of children, youth and families

Youth at the Center Report

The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) released the Youth at the Center Report, highlighting what children, youth, families, and community members want in a reimagined behavioral health ecosystem.

Working Paper: California’s Children & Youth Behavioral Health Ecosystem

The CYBHI’s Working Paper is an early blueprint articulating what a more integrated and equitable mental and behavioral health system would look like and outlining the components, changes and steps necessary to get there.

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 Safe Spaces – a trauma-informed training for the early childcare and education sector. When school personnel and care providers 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 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.