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California Assembly Bill 3632

Under the federal special education law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education with the assistance of services.  One of these related services are psychiatric services.  A child who qualifies for special education, has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and who requires psychiatric services may receive services at no cost.  AB 3632 requires the coordination of these psychiatric services to be between the School District and County Mental Health. 

The School District is responsible for providing the psychiatric service’s as long as school counseling and guidance services are meeting the child’s need.  To the extent that the services needed are beyond the scope of the School District then County Mental Health becomes responsible.  A child may be referred by the School District to County Mental Health for an assessment to receive AB 3632 services when all of the following criteria are met:  

  1. The child has an IEP and is suspected of needing mental health services in order to benefit from the educational program;
  2. The child has emotional or behavioral characteristics which impede education, are of significant rate and intensity, are not attributable to “social maladjustment,” and are not solely temporary adjustment problems;
  3. The child’s functioning, including cognitive functioning, is at a level sufficient for the student to benefit from mental health services; and
  4. The school has previously provided counseling and guidance services to address the problems, or the IEP Team has determined the services to be inappropriate.

Within 5 days of receiving a referral County Mental Health must determine if the assessment is necessary.  If County Mental Health agrees to assess the child it must produce an assessment plan within 15 days.  Once the assessment plan is signed County Mental Health has 60 days to perform the assessment and hold an IEP meeting. 

The County Mental Health assessors should attend the IEP meeting.  Whatever the assessor recommends MUST become the recommendation of the School District.  The School District has no leeway to disagree with County Mental Health.  All children who qualify will receive case management, a service plan, medication monitoring by a psychiatrist and either: 

  1. Outpatient therapy;
  2. Day treatment; or
  3. Residential placement.

The County Mental Health assessment should include background on the child, decision on the need for services, a treatment plan, services and goals.  All of the services provided should be at no cost to the parents.  The paperwork might request the parents health insurance information but this information is only optional. 

UPDATE – On October 8, 2010 Governor Schwarzenegger Used his Line Item Veto to Cut $133 Million from AB 3632′s Mental Health Special Education Law – Governor Says Mandate is Suspended by his Action.  This sends the responsibility for all Mental Health Services back to the Schools but it is still unclear at this time how the schools will handle the transition. 

On October 13, 2010 Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, through his spokeswoman said, he will try to reverse Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s line-item budget vetoes when the next legislative session begins in December.  This would require a 2/3 majority vote to overturn the veto or he could try to re-authorize the spending programs and get the new Governor at that time to sign the amendment. 
 
 
On October 21, 2010 a class action lawsuit to preserve lifeline services for more than 20,000 students was filed in federal court by Public Counsel, Disability Rights California, Mental Health Advocacy Services and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.  Read the  AB 3632 Class Action Lawsuit Press Release
 
On October 29, 2010 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced that the California Department of Education (CDE) will continue to allocate $76 million in available federal funds to maintain essential mental health services for students with severe disabilities despite Governor Schwarzenegger’s unilateral suspension of mental health services for students and his line-item veto of $133 million in general fund for services provided by county mental health offices. 
 
On November 2, 2010 a Stipulated Temporary Restraining Order was issued against the suspension.  As a result of the Stipulated TRO, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health will continue to provide and monitor educationally related mental health services, conduct assessments and attend IEP meetings provided that it receives the IDEA funds to do so. The Los Angeles County Office of Education has agreed to distribute the IDEA funds in the same manner it did before the Governor’s veto.
 
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