California Launches Free Behavioral Health Apps for Children, Young Adults, and Families

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By bandita, CC license

California’s Department of Health Care Services launched two free behavioral health digital services for all families with kids, teens, and young adults up to age 25.

The partnerships have been years in the making, as the state announced in 2021 the opportunity to collaborate on a new initiative to combat the youth mental health crisis.

They selected two platforms, Brightline for young kids and Kooth‘s Soluna for young adults and teens to be the cornerstone of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI).

The tools are free for all California families, regardless of income or health insurance.

“About two-thirds of California kids with depression do not receive treatment. This platform will help meet the need by expanding access to critical behavioral health supports,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency. “Our young people will have an accessible option to get the help they need.”

Between 2019 and 2021, about one-third of California adolescents experienced serious psychological distress, with a 20 percent increase in adolescent suicides. Meanwhile, the mental health provider shortage is causing longer wait times for appointments to community-based mental health providers. Availability is particularly limited among the uninsured and people with low incomes.

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“The Behavioral Health Virtual Services Platform will give access to services early on, reducing the likelihood of escalation to more serious conditions,” said Ghaly.

BrightLife Kids

Both web and app-based applications will offer coaching services in English and Spanish, as well as telephone-based coaching in all Medi-Cal threshold languages.

The platforms include:

  • Free Coaching: Live one-on-one coaching sessions with a trained and qualified behavioral health wellness coach delivered through in-app chat or video appointments. Telephone coaching will also be available.
  • Educational Content: Age-tailored educational articles, videos, podcasts, and stories.
  • Assessments and Tools: Stress-management tools and clinically validated assessments to understand and monitor behavioral health over time.
  • Care Navigation Services: A searchable directory and live care navigation support to connect users to their local behavioral health resources, including connecting users with their health plan, school-based services, or community-based organizations that can provide clinical care options and care coordination services.
  • Peer Communities: Moderated forums let kids connect with other youth or caregivers, posing questions or sharing their own experiences to help others with the same situation.
  • Crisis and Safety Protocols: Crisis and emergency safety resources for platform users experiencing a mental health crisis or who require immediate assistance.

Both apps have strict privacy and confidentiality requirements and must adhere to all applicable state laws and regulations pertaining to privacy and security.

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Each app will also follow robust safety and risk escalation protocols. 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.

Where to find the apps

BrightLife Kids is available for download on IOS devices in the Apple App Store and will be available for Android devices in mid-2024, but it’s also available online at for any resident on a computer. The Soluna app for older youth is available for both IOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

See a preview of what to expect in the videos below, starting with the younger kids…

Check out the app for older kids…

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