California Makes Free Youth Behavioral Health Apps Available

Jan. 17, 2024
Behavioral Health Virtual Services Platform seeks to give children, adolescents, and young adults a new point of access to services to address behavioral health challenges

The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has launched the Behavioral Health Virtual Services Platform – two free behavioral health services applications for all families with kids, teens, and young adults ages 0 to 25. 

BrightLife Kids, developed by Brightline, will support parents and caregivers and children (0-12), and Soluna, developed by Kooth, will serve teens and young adults (13-25). Users can access 1-1 support with licensed wellness coaches, educational content, self-help tools, goal-setting and journaling exercises, assessments, and peer communities, all of which are moderated by licensed behavioral health professionals to ensure safety. Each app will also offer coaching services in English and Spanish, as well as telephone-based coaching in all Medi-Cal threshold languages.

“Kids, teens, and young adults are facing a mental health crisis. To make sure our youth have another path to access needed behavioral health services, the state is launching two new apps to give young Californians and their caregivers access to the professional help they need.” said DHCS Director Michelle Baass, in a statement. “The tools are flexible and free for all California families, regardless of income, health insurance, or immigration status. I urge every young person and parent in California to visit the Soluna and Brightlife Kids apps to see if they are right for them.”  

Nationwide, rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm are climbing. Between 2019 and 2021, about one-third of California adolescents experienced serious psychological distress, with a 20 percent increase in adolescent suicides. Meanwhile, the nationwide mental health provider shortage is causing longer wait times for appointments to community-based mental health providers.

“About two-thirds of California kids with depression do not receive treatment. This platform will help meet the needs of California’s diverse children, youth, and families by expanding access to critical behavioral health supports. Our young people will have an accessible option to get the help they need,” said Mark Ghaly, M.D., Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, in a statement. “The Behavioral Health Virtual Services Platform will give children, adolescents, and young adults a new point of access to high-quality services to help them address behavioral health challenges early on, reducing the likelihood of escalation to more serious conditions and alleviating pressure on existing mental health care providers.”   
These new applications will complement existing services offered by health plans, counties, and schools by providing additional care options and resources for parents and caregivers, children, youth and young adults in California.   

Both apps must meet accessibility requirements and have strict privacy and confidentiality requirements and must adhere to all applicable state laws and regulations pertaining to privacy and security. Each app will also follow robust safety and risk escalation protocols to ensure the safety of children, youth, and young adults using the apps. Trained behavioral health professionals will monitor app usage to identify potential risks, and licensed behavioral health professionals will be on standby to intervene, if clinically appropriate. Further, each app will connect users to crisis or emergency services, when needed.   

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