Partnering with Local Mental Health Providers to Support Foster Youth in College

In 2018-2020, John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) came together to address the mental health needs of community college students who were current and former foster youth  as part of JBAY’s regional LA Opportunity Youth Collaborative Foster Youth College Advancement Project (LA OYC FYCAP). Many students with experience in foster care have access to Medi-Cal until age 26. County mental health agencies contract with local providers to serve clients with Medi-Cal. What if community colleges could partner with these local providers to offer co-located mental health services—meeting students where they already are, and at no extra cost to the college?

JBAY and LACDMH led a multi-year effort with 11 community colleges and their local providers that resulted in co-located services, referral networks, and important steps forward. By making long-term mental health support accessible for foster youth, they have helped hundreds of students access care.

Using this toolkit, California Community Colleges throughout the system can replicate these practices to connect students with Medi-Cal or no insurance to mental health services. Staff of many programs that serve students—the foster youth program, Veterans Resource Center, TRIO Program, EOPS, and others—can adopt these strategies.