Wednesday, November 3, 2010

News: Stipulated TRO Issued In AB 3632 Case

Educationally-related mental health services to continue, despite Governor's veto and suspension of mandate

A class action lawsuit was filed last week by the collaborative forces of various public interest law organizations in Los Angeles in response to the Governor's line item veto of funding for mental health services and suspension of the AB 3632 mandate.

More information about this issue:
Our previous blog posts: News: AB3632 Suspended... Mental Health Services in State of Chaos: Part 1... Mental Health Services in State of Chaos: Part 2...
Press Release about the Class Action (on Disability Rights California's webpage)
Public Counsel's story about the class action (on Public Counsel's webpage)
The complaint filed in the class action

As part of the class action litigation, Plaintiffs sought a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against various defendants. The Plaintiffs sought an order to require the state department of education (CDE) to take certain actions to monitor and track changes in local policies and practices related to mental health services, exercise its authority under the law to compel local education agencies (i.e. school districts) to ensure that students receive mental health services without delay or interruption, and disburse federal IDEA funds including those specifically delineated for mental health services on the same basis as they were disbursed prior to the Governor's actions on October 8th. Additionally, as to the "local" defendants, including the LA County Department of Mental Health, Plaintiffs sought a TRO requiring the continued provision of mental health services, including assessments, attendance at IEP meetings, and providing services and funding residential placements, at the same level as was previously provided in accordance with the procedures existing prior to the Governor's veto.

State Department of Education (CDE) Action and Agreement to Disburse Funds

On October 29, 2010, Jack O'Connell, State Superintendent of Schools, announced that CDE would be releasing $76 million in federal IDEA funds reserved for state level activities to county offices in order to fund educationally-related mental health services through county mental health agencies. Thus, these funds would be available to ensure the continuation of services mandated by federal law for students with disabilities.

In announcing this action, O'Connell stated "I refuse to let the Governor's misguided action prevent severely disabled students from getting the mental health care they need from qualified providers... The Governor's veto does not override federal law; School districts must still implement the IEP... yet most districts don't have the expertise to provide psychiatric and medical management of necessary medications and other mental health services..." See California Department of Education News Release; October 29, 2010

Stipulated TRO for Provision of Services by LA County DMH

Yesterday, November 2, 2010, the federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California signed a stipulated Temporary Restraining Order in this matter. Because of the assurances of disbursement of reserved funding by the CDE, funding would be available to LACDMH to provide services in accordance with the practices and procedures for distribution of funds existing before October 8, 2010. Thus, the stipulated TRO provided that LACDMH would "resume and continue to provide and monitor educationally-related mental health services... attend IEP meetings and authorize services, and complete assessments..." either until the "reserved" funding runs out or until January 14, 2011, whichever occurs first.

What does this mean?

The issue regarding funding for educationally related mental health services in California is by no means resolved. However, locally in Los Angeles County, the process for providing these services through a student's IEP will theoretically return to the same practices and procedures as before the veto by the Governor, and the subsequent chaos of the past few weeks, occurred. At least for the time being - the "reserved" funding will not last forever, and the long term problem still requires a resolution. For students and families throughout California, Mr. O'Connell's action is a step in the right direction towards ensuring stability in the provision of much needed services during this time of confusion. It means that funds will be disbursed for the provision of services through the counties. Additionally, CDE has continued to remind local school districts of their ultimate responsibility to provide students with a FAPE, and the CDE has agreed to issue directives regarding these obligations in an attempt to ensure and oversee compliance. Within the context of the class action, the Plaintiffs involved have agreed to inform CDE of any information that they obtain regarding non-compliance by a local school district of its obligation to provide or pay for related mental health services when a non-educational agency fails to do so.

For more information, please check out the following links:

Order on Stipulated TRO (as related to local defendants)

Stipulation and Notice of Withdrawal (as related to agreement with state defendants)

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