NCYL bids a sad farewell to Deputy Director Patrick Gardner, who is leaving NCYL after 12 years. Patrick has started a new non-profit, the Young Minds Advocacy Project, and NCYL will continue to collaborate with Patrick on many of its cases and projects.
Patrick spent his career at NCYL advocating for youth with unmet mental health needs, utilizing policy and litigation to secure support and services for tens of thousands of foster youth in California, Arizona, Washington and other states.
It was Patrick who persuaded NCYL 12 years ago to take on children’s mental health as an area of specialty, successfully making the case that a key reason many children were failing in the areas we did focus on – foster care, juvenile justice, and education – was due to unmet mental health needs. Over the next decade, NCYL took on multiple projects and cases to ensure children’s mental health needs were being addressed.
Most recently, Patrick and his co-counsel in Katie A v. Bonta won a nine-year battle to ensure that the mental health needs of all California foster children (and those at risk of entering care) were addressed by expanding Medi-Cal services to include intensive home and community based mental health services when appropriate. Patrick’s new non-profit will work on the implementation of the Katie A settlement, which is in the first year of a three-year process. This past May, Patrick and the Katie A team were awarded “Advocate of the Year” by the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY) for their work on the case.
Patrick also recently led negotiations with the state of California to protect a critical entitlement program for low-income and foster children to quality mental health care. The program, known as Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT), was threatened by Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to transfer fiscal responsibility for the program from the state to individual counties, without requiring adequate oversight and monitoring. Patrick and other advocates secured a promise from the state that children would not lose these services, and that the state will ensure the program has the resources to meet every eligible child’s needs, and is monitored for performance and outcomes.
Patrick has also served on the California Child Welfare Council, where he has effectively raised awareness of mental health as an important issue, focusing specifically on 1) the problems foster children face in getting health and mental health care when they are transferred out of their home county, and 2) the challenge of protecting foster youth and other vulnerable children from commercial sexual exploitation.
Patrick also spearheaded NCYL’s involvement in the Juvenile Mental Health Courts in Santa Clara and Alameda counties, which divert youth with unmet mental health needs from juvenile detention to community based mental health care. Under Patrick’s direction, NCYL aided in the creation, development, and evaluation of these courts, and improved upon the model by including civil legal advocates as core collaborators. Alameda County has seen substantial reductions in detention, new violations, and hospitalizations of youth who have participated in the court.
Patrick has also done a substantial amount of advocacy outside of California. He and his co-counsel in TR v. Dreyfus secured an interim agreement with the state of Washington to develop a framework for providing mental health services to children on Medicaid. In Arizona, Patrick and other advocates got the state to agree to better collaboration among public agencies providing mental health services to low-income children; an increased capacity to deliver services; and development of a quality management system focused on sound medical practices. And, under Patrick’s direction, NCYL just recently agreed to represent a class of about 18,000 indigent children in Idaho with severe emotional and mental disabilities. The goal is to secure higher quality mental health care for these children.
Within the organization, Patrick played a crucial role in attracting talented young lawyers by helping them secure one- and two-year fellowships to work on mental health issues at NCYL, including Zahra Hayat, Meghan Lang, Allison Crapo, Laura Townsend, Kate Walker, and current Staff Attorney Fiza Quraishi.
NCYL thanks Patrick for his years of exemplary work and looks forward to a continuing collaboration to ensure better mental health care for low-income children.