The California Department of Health Care Services on Tuesday launched two new health services offering free telehealth to families with children up to age 25.
The new services include BrightLife Kids, a website where families with children up to 12 years old can find mental health coaching and resources, and Soluna, a mobile app that offers mental health support for youth ages 13-25. The new services are part of CalHOPE, a state crisis response program created to serve communities impacted by the pandemic, but that has since expanded with more targeted initiatives.
Funded by the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative, which designates $4.6 billion over a five-year period to support California families, children, teens and young adults, the two new services offer free, one-on-one coaching sessions, information on emergency resources for those facing mental health crises, a “searchable directory and live care navigation services” that can help users connect with resources available via their health plan or at their school and tools to help manage stress.
“Kids, teens, and young adults are facing a mental health crisis,” DHCS Director Michelle Baass said in a press announcement. “To make sure our youth have another path to access needed behavioral health services, the state is launching two new apps to give young Californians and their caregivers access to the professional help they need.”
The state’s new telehealth services come as rates of anxiety, depression and self-harm are increasing nationwide, especially among young people. According to the California Health Interview Survey, one of the largest state health surveys in the country, about one-third of California teens experienced serious psychological distress between 2019 and 2021, with a 20% increase in adolescent suicides.
America is also experiencing a mental health provider shortage, causing longer wait times for appointments, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
In March 2023, the Health Resources and Services Administration found that 160 million Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages and that more than 8,000 additional professionals were needed to provide an adequate supply. The administration also found mental health care availability is particularly limited among the uninsured, minorities, low-income communities and people with disabilities.
“The tools are flexible and free for all California families, regardless of income, health insurance, or immigration status. I urge every young person and parent in California to visit the Soluna and Brightlife Kids apps to see if they are right for them,” Baass said of the two new services.
Both offer coaching services in English and Spanish, with live translation offered in 17 additional languages.