Youth Innovation Project

Reads 14 youths, 12 counties, 1 mission and includes photos of youths smiling

The Commission is dedicated to exploring the mental health needs of young people in California including engagement and leadership development efforts, and support for stakeholder advocacy on behalf of transition age youth. The Youth Innovation Project is designed to support the inclusion of youth in the design of youth-oriented mental health innovations.

Youth Innovation Idea Lab!

Nov 12-13 3:30-6pm

Join us at California’s Next Youth Innovation Idea Lab happening November 13th from 3:30 to 6pm. This will be a virtual (Zoom) event. The idea lab is an intensive, interactive, and free-thinking environment where you will join with adult allies to immerse yourselves in a collaborative thinking process and together, imagine a positive community change that improves the mental health services accessible to California’s youth.

November 2020Youth Innovation Idea Lab Idea Lab Details!

Past Idea Labs:

August 2020 Youth Innovation Idea Lab December 2019Youth Innovation Idea Lab


California’s Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) is intended to support transformational change to the state’s community mental health system. The MHSA provides California counties approximately $100 million annually to fund innovations intended to support experimental and adaptive approaches to improving access to care, the quality of services and outcomes. Innovation funds can be used to develop new programs, support research, adapt existing practices to address the needs of new communities and generally address the needs of unserved or underserved populations with mental health needs. The MHSOAC must approve county innovation proposals before counties may spend their innovation funds.

Youth Innovation Project Opportunity

The innovation component provides an opportunity to infuse youth voice and vision into each county’s community program planning and project development processes. The Youth Innovation Project Planning Committee is introduced to support this opportunity by providing guidance to the Youth Innovation Project.

The Youth Innovation Project Planning Committee was asked to provide support for the project, which includes the following three goals:  (1) identify mental health challenges facing youth, (2) identify potential solutions to those challenges, and (3) support the presentation of solutions to county leaders for innovation investment. Following months of research, including academic reports; needs assessments; focus groups; and surveys, the Committee chose to focus the project on increasing access to preventative mental health services in schools using youth-led approaches.

In order to identify potential solutions, Committee Members planned and facilitated a Youth Innovation Idea Lab in December 2019 in collaboration with local youth and adult allies from Santa Barbara, Kern, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties. Please click here for event outcomes including graphic illustration of key themes.

The Committee planned two more idea labs for the central and northern regions of California. In response to COVID-19, the second idea lab was transitioned to a virtual platform and was hosted on August 17th and 18th, 2020. A third idea lab will be hosted in November 2020.

Stay tuned for more details about the youth-led innovation project design lab!

Please email Shannon Tarter if you would like to be added to the communication list for this project.

Read more information about the Innovation component of the MHSA

Project Goal

The project includes the following three goals: 

  • Identify mental health challenges facing youth
  • Identify potential solutions to those challenges
  • Support the presentation of solutions to county leaders for innovation investment


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