Home Health Care New Collaboration Brings Mental Telehealth Services to LA County Schools

New Collaboration Brings Mental Telehealth Services to LA County Schools


A new collaboration unveiled Thursday will bring virtual mental health care to L.A. County K-12 public schools. The Los Angeles County Office of Education, L.A. Care Health Plan, Health Net, L.A. County Department of Mental Health and school-based telehealth company Hazel Health are working together for the program.

Hazel Health works with schools and families to provide physical and mental health care via telehealth. For the L.A. County program, Hazel will only provide its mental health services. All local education agencies have the option to participate in Hazel’s program, with Los Angeles Unified School District and Compton Unified School District already announcing they’re participating. In total, there are 1.3 million students in L.A. County’s K-12 public schools. 

Insurance companies L.A. Care Health Plan and Health Net are allocating up to $24 million to cover the program’s services over the course of two years. This funding was authorized by California Governor Gavin Newsom through the Department of Health Care Services’ Student Behavioral Health Incentive Program.

Kids can be referred to Hazel’s services by school staff or family. Once a referral comes to the telehealth company, Hazel reaches out to the family to collect insurance information and schedule an assessment with a licensed clinician to determine if the child needs care. If they do require care, then students begin their short-term therapy (typically six to eight sessions). They take appointments at the school in a private space and on an iPad provided by Hazel. They can also take them at home on any internet-enabled device, said Andrew Post, chief innovation officer at Hazel.

Once the therapy program with Hazel is completed, the clinician can decide if the student requires additional clinical services. If the student does, the company will connect the family to family resource managers to find an ongoing provider, Post said.

“Our family resource managers will work with the family, the health plans, whoever to help identify who that ongoing provider will be and transition that care so that there is a true ecosystem built of a crosswalk or a bridge from Hazel to that community-based provider,” Post stated.

The collaboration aims to expand access to youth mental health care at a time when there’s a major demand and not enough providers. In California, more than 284,000 youth deal with major depression, but 66% don’t receive treatment. The program also allows students to receive care from a diverse group of providers. More than 60% of Hazel’s therapists identify as people of color and more than 30% are bilingual.

“For us to be able to unlock those school hours in partnership with the schools really gives us an opportunity to meet [students] where they’re at, to not hopefully disrupt any of their education or academic environment, but to really be able to deliver the care that they need. And to do so in a culturally competent but also diverse way,” Post said. 

Dr. Michael Brodsky, medical director for behavioral health and social services at L.A. Care, echoed Post’s comments about the need to expand access to youth mental health care. There has long been a mental health crisis, but the pandemic worsened it, he said.

“We layered on Covid, which brought with it school closures, social isolation, highly contagious and fatal disease,” Brodsky said. “Suddenly, kids were faced with a whole additional set of challenges related to grief and loss and loneliness and academic challenge. And then we shouldn’t forget about the twin pandemic of systemic racism.”

Brodsky added that he hopes this collaboration allows kids who don’t normally receive care find help.

“We know there are kids suffering silently,” he said. “Our goal is to try to intervene while those kids are in distress but keeping it to themselves and try to avoid crisis situations.”

Photo credit: Bohdan Skrypnyk, Getty Images

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