2016 CMHACY Conference Highlights

Since 1980 CMHACY has hosted an annual meeting at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California.  Unique in the country and attended by as many as 600 stakeholders – parents, youth, providers, legal advocates, school representatives, County agency leaders, state department officials, and legislative staff – the conference has provided a forum for policy development, spawned collaboration and partnerships among counties and providers, incubated state-wide parent and youth organizations, hosted nationally recognized speakers, and showcased cutting-edge clinical advances in work with youth and families.  Furthermore, the tone and environment of the conference encourages informal connection and communication between youth, family, agency and state leadership, all in a beautiful and natural setting along the Pacific Ocean. It is the “go to” conference in California for all those interested in behavioral health services for children, youth and their families.

This year’s conference set a record for attendees. Our number of registered members is beyond the old record of 600. We will be releasing the final numbers when we have them.

Those of you who attended the conference also noticed several additions to our conference activities. Some of these additions included:

  • Creating a policy “overlay” to the entire conference, which was created by the newly formed CMHACY Policy Committee. It is clear that California does not have an established policy related to children’s mental health. CMHACY’s policy focus is to improve the behavioral health of California’s children and youth. We operationalized this focus by stating: All children, youth, and their families should have timely access to the right service, at the right time, in the right place, and in the right amount. As you have seen from our weekly newsletters, the CMHACY Board of Directors and Friends are more directly advocating and educating CMHACY members, collaborative partners, and state and local officials on key and critical issues that merit attention, along with offering possible solutions that other states and organizations have implemented successfully.  Our conference provided a number of opportunities to learn more about the development of public policy and to offer your opinion regarding what should be included in our state’s policy for children’s mental health:
    • Added questions to all evaluation forms to capture your thoughts for the development of a statewide children’s mental health policy.
    • Policy 101 presentation to learn how to advocate at the state and local levels
    • Conversations with leading statewide advocates
    • “Policy Café’s” discussed policy priorities with other attendees and to create a call to action for the CMHACY Board and conference participants.
    • Renovated Policy Panels on Friday. This is a unique opportunity for conference participants to hear directly from both the state policy leaders (who oversee child welfare, behavioral health, commercial insurance, and education) and those responsible for implementing the policies at the local level.

The most frequently identified values included:

  • Family and youth voice and choice
  • Collaboration
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Stability

Attendees were also asked about their priorities for the state related to children’s mental health.  The most frequently identified priorities were:

  • Crisis services
  • Homelessness solutions and supports
  • Collaboration
  • Voice
  • Stigma
  • School based care
  • Needs driven care vs. diagnosis driven services
  • Consent and confidentiality
  • Questions generated on the evaluation forms and policy cafes’ throughout the conference were provided to the panel facilitator, Daniel Heimpel. Panelists responded to questions provided to them in advance:
    • What is your interest, and/or the interest of your department, in children’s mental health?
    • What do you see as the most pressing policy issues currently impacting youth with mental and behavioral health needs, and their families?
    • What is your vision to ensure that every youth in this state who has a need gets the right service at the right time in the right location and that the length of the service is appropriate to ensure that the youth will not need services?

The additional questions generated from feedback from attendees throughout the conference included:

  • Most responsibilities for service delivery and funding for youth and families in California remain silod.  What can be done to develop fully integrated services and supports for both the youth and their family members?
  • Since AB114, the responsibility for providing educationally related mental health services has moved from the county mental health plans to the schools.  This change has resulted in gaps in service and disputes over eligibility criteria for both AB114 services and specialty mental health services.  What can be done to address both of these challenges?
  • There has been increasing interest in developing a crisis continuum of care for children and youth throughout the state.  Examples from other states show the effectiveness of in home and community based response to crisis.  What can California do to develop a crisis continuum of care specific to youth and families, regardless of their type of insurance and location?
  • Privacy laws are often blamed as a barrier to collaboration among service providers from different systems.  How can we overcome this barrier as educators, county mental health and child welfare providers, and other paid and natural supports come together to support the youth and family?
  • To access services through county mental health, youth must have a qualifying diagnosis and identified needs.  The focus of care tends to be on the label (diagnosis) and not the individual’s needs and strengths.  How can we change this focus?
  • Much attention has been given to the need for services and supports to homeless adults with mental illness.  Youth, especially transition aged youth, also have challenges finding safe and stable housing, but are often excluded from the housing programs developed throughout the state.  What can we do to ensure that youth are a priority for future housing programs, such as the “no place like home” initiative currently being developed?
  • Service systems and policy leaders often talk about the importance of youth and family “voice” but youth and family members feel ignored when it comes to decisions about their own care as well as in the development of policies and programs.  What needs to change to ensure true “voice and choice”, and what can the audience members do to help make that change?
  • Stigma related to mental health continues.  Youth and families being involved in the decisions about the type of treatment (including culturally relevant care), and location can often decrease this stigma.   Yet, youth and families are frequently offered limited options.  How can we develop a service system that decreases the stigma of mental illness in general and for the individual youth and family?

Other new components of this year’s conference included:

  • Successful expansion of our “friends” to include those from physical health care and commercial insurance.
  • Exhibitors who are represent accrediting organizations; an essential element to improve quality of care for programs resulting from the Continuum of Care Reform.
  • A conference “app” to replace the paper conference programs
  • “Poster sessions”, which will include a number of policy and practice topics and the opportunity to discuss these topics informally with the authors
  • Expansion of the web and social media presence of CMHACY. Our goal is to begin to have a more dynamic web presence with more frequent updates and collaboration.

We will again have our popular conference activities, including:

  • Nationally recognized plenary speakers
  • Workshops on a variety of topics of interest to all conference attendees
  • Awards recognizing those who have stood out in their partnership with youth and family members
  • Welcome dinner for those new to CMHACY
  • An exhibit of student films
  • A dance!
  • Wine and cheese reception
  • Drawings for prizes throughout the conference
  • Election of new board members
  • Pre-conferences continued, with great focus on local advocacy and integrated care
    • Youth
    • Parents/caregivers
    • County and contracted providers
  • Youth Leadership Academy (developed by Youth In Mind) focused on wellness and the development of advocacy skills.
  • Parent/caregiver celebration breakfast


As you have noticed through the newsletters and the conference activities, The CMHACY Board of Directors and Friends have expanded our sense of mission. We are communicating more regularly and in greater detail about important topics and concerns related to children’s mental health, child welfare, education, and overall well-being.  Although you will not be receiving newsletters as frequently as you did in the weeks leading up to the conference, we plan on releasing a monthly newsletter which will be supplemented by articles on breaking news. Guest writers of articles are always welcome. Contact advocacy@cmhacy.org if you are interested in writing a guest article or have information you would like us to pass on to the membership.

The 2016 CMHACY Conference picture contest results to be published soon. Also keep your eyes out for our picture gallery.


Save the date for next year’s conference

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 (parent/caregiver)
Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 (all others)

Conference Sessions:
Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 through Friday, May 19th 2017




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