Policy and Advocacy

Seneca is committed to informing and improving the local, state, and federal systems that serve children and families. Seneca’s broad geographic range and continuum of mental health, permanency, education, and juvenile justice services position the agency as a leader in shaping public policy. This work can take many forms: local county-level advocacy; state legislation; participation in state-level advisory councils or workgroups; developing partnerships or coalitions to advance innovative systems-change ideas, and more.

Seneca’s long history and proven commitment to the children and families in our programs, paired with our large geographic reach, gives us a “seat at the table” in many policy advocacy conversations about reforming family-serving care systems. However, we are, first and foremost, a direct care agency committed to supporting families through the most difficult times in their lives. Our policy advocacy work seeks to achieve reforms that will best support the children and families we serve and our program staff who are doing the critical work of providing unconditional care.

Seneca’s efforts to inform public policy should always be substantively informed by the voice, experience and need of the dedicated program staff working across Seneca sites, and the youth and families in our programs. If you are a Seneca staff person or a current or past program participant, and would like to connect about our policy work, please contact Hope Kamer, Policy Analyst, at Hope_Kamer@senecacenter.org. We hope to hear from you!

Advocating in Partnership

Seneca leverages our policy impact by working in coalition with other nonprofit care providers. In California, Seneca is a member of two advocacy organizations: California Alliance for Child and Family Services and California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. On the national level, Seneca advocates as a part of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.

If you are an employee of Seneca, you are also a member of these three advocacy organizations. Check out their websites for updated information on state and federal reform work related to Seneca programs!

Spring, 2021

Our advocacy efforts this Spring will be primarily focused on continued engagement with the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal initiative (CalAIM). CalAIM is a multi-year effort led by the California Department of Health Care Services to substantively include the voices of stakeholders and consumers in reforming the Medi-Cal system. You can read more about CalAIM here: DHCS CalAIM Overview.

Additionally, Seneca’s Founder, Ken Berrick, serves as a Governor’s Appointee on the Child Welfare Council, a California statewide advisory body committed to improving the systems of care for children and families involved with the child welfare system. Ken co-chairs the Child Welfare Council’s Behavioral Health Committee, a group of stakeholders that provides best practice recommendations to the California Health and Human Services Agency on meeting the behavioral health needs of youth and families involved in, or at risk of involvement in, the child welfare system. The committee published a set of Policy Recommendations in January of 2021. The recommendations urge reforms related to the diagnosis requirement for youth in need of EPSDT Specialty Mental Health Services, furnishing an accessible continuum of behavioral health services for youth in every county, and strengthening the data and evaluation infrastructure of the service delivery systems charged with providing behavioral health care to children and families. More information on the Child Welfare Council can be found here: California Child Welfare Council.

Seneca is proud to be cosponsoring two bills this legislative session:

As part of our commitment to driving reform in family-serving systems, Seneca is proud to be cosponsoring a bill this year in the California Legislature: AB 808: Children’s Crisis Continuum Pilot Program (Stone).  

As an agency, we have sought to create a continuum of care to help children and families through their most difficult times, regardless of their level of need. For over 5 years, Seneca has helped convene stakeholders throughout California to talk about a gap in the system that has left a small group of high-needs youth without access to the services they need. Up until December of 2020, many of these youth were placed out-of-state.

As out-of-state placements have been de-certified and child welfare involved youth are returning to placement in-state near their families and communities, AB 808 seeks to build California’s capacity to support child welfare involved youth with the most complex and pervasive behavioral health needs. By prioritizing local access to both intensive and home-based care, youth benefit from remaining within their families and communities. The pilot established by this bill would allow counties to build integrated continuums of step-up, step-down treatment settings.

The bill was heard in the Assembly Human Services Committee on the afternoon of 4/21/21 and was successfully passed through! To hear our own Ken Berrick provide powerful testimony in support of the legislation, check out the recording available here: Assembly Internet (ca.gov). The video is several hours long, but you can jump to the time stamps below for the highlights:  

  • Asm. Stone’s presentation on AB 808 begins: 31:08 
  • Ken Berrick’s testimony on AB 808 begins: 33:52   

Families that were separated at the border have endured unfathomable trauma, the ramifications of which may be lifelong. In this moment, more than ever, we need your support. Seneca's Todo Por Mi Familia initiative connects thousands of families impacted by the Zero Tolerance Policy with free mental health services. Donate today to provide emergency relief to these families who need assistance to get back on their feet.

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