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Blue Shield of California’s youth mental health initiative

The foundations of mental health begin in childhood and play into a person’s well-being throughout life.

Our challenge

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Mental illness is the number 1 reason California children are hospitalized

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509:1 is the student-to-counselor ratio in California schools

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50% of youth of color surveyed by The AAKOMA Project have depression or anxiety

BlueSky’s goals

Improve access

to high-quality mental health counseling and support, especially among underrepresented youth from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and mixed-race backgrounds, as well as LGBTQ+ youth.

Increase access to providers
who can offer culturally congruent care by cultivating a pipeline of diverse young people to work in mental health careers.
Develop awareness
by training adults to recognize youth mental health challenges and provide appropriate support, especially for underrepresented youth.
Grow advocacy
among youth to educate and engage their peers to utilize resources that support their own mental health.

“It gave me a safe place at school where I could talk about my feelings to someone who actually cares and helped me through what I was dealing with.”

- youth participant

Our distinguished partners

BlueSky collaborators engage young people, parents, and educators to address youth mental health needs. The programs we support and partner with include:

California Alliance for Children and Family Services (CACFS)

California Alliance for Children and Family Services (CACFS) promotes the health, well-being and safety of children, youth and families in California as a collective voice impacting policy and best practices to strengthen the systems that serve them.

​California Children’s Trust

California Children’s Trust is reimagining California’s approach to children’s behavioral health. It is an initiative to achieve health equity and healthy development for California’s children, youth, and families.

​Directing Change

Directing Change engages young people throughout California to learn about suicide prevention and mental health, and then educate their peers through creative filmmaking.

Northern California Grantmaker’s Youth Power Fund (YPF)

Northern California Grantmaker’s Youth Power Fund (YPF) is a collaboration between YO! California and funders that promotes youth organizing to advance justice and equity by engaging in trust-based philanthropy. One of YPF’s priorities is providing mental health, wellness and healing for youth.

​Wellness Together

​Wellness Together partners with K-12 school districts to provide turn-key mental health services for students, families, and educators. We support their counselors at 22 middle and high schools in Alameda and San Diego counties.

​University of California, San Francisco

BlueSky is honored to partner with UCSF to evaluate BlueSky and our impact.

​Health Career Connection (HCC)

​Health Career Connection (HCC) is building the next generation of diverse health leaders and professionals. HCC empowers undergraduate students and recent graduates to choose and successfully pursue health careers that best suit their talents, passions, and goals.

​Mental Health California’s Brother Be Well

​Mental Health California’s Brother Be Well offers a multimedia platform for boys and men of color, blending awareness, innovation, education, and healing pathways to reduce disparities, disrupt prolonged suffering, and improve health and mental wellness.


​ fuels young people to change the world, tackling issues ranging from social justice to mental health.

​NAMI California’s On Campus

​NAMI California’s On Campus clubs raise mental health awareness, educate the campus community, and reduce stigma in schools through peer-led activities, education, and advocacy.

How we invest

We fund programs that expand mental health and wellness access, awareness, and advocacy to support California’s youth. Our funding is by invitation only and focuses on addressing health disparities and serving youth and communities of color.

Advisory board

The BlueSky Advisory Board comprises experts from communities of color who have championed youth mental health, youth development, and policy.

Lishaun Francis
Lishaun Francis
Senior Director of Behavioral Health
Juan Acosta
Juan Acosta
Program Officer, Sierra Health Foundation
Dr. Dayna Long
Dr. Dayna Long
Professor of Pediatric Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
Monica Nepomuceno
Monica Nepomuceno
Education Programs Consultant, CDE
Dr. Akilah Reynolds
Dr. Akilah Reynolds
Psychologist and Mental Health Expert
Dr. Erica Shirley
Dr. Erica Shirley

Director of Training

Erica Shirley, PhD is a well-being advisor in the Office of Intramural Training and Education at the National Institute of Health (NIH). Dr. Shirley provides advising, co-facilitates workshops and groups, and coordinates programming that supports the well-being and cultivates the resilience of post-baccalaureates, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students training at NIH. Formerly, Dr. Shirley was a staff psychologist and the director of training at Howard University’s Counseling Service (HUCS). Prior to HUCS, she was a staff psychologist and trauma specialist at Georgetown University’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services. Dr. Shirley's clinical experience and interests have included supporting undergraduate and graduate students struggling with depression, anxiety, adjustment/transition challenges, relationship challenges, and issues related to trauma and complex trauma. Her approach to working with students and trainees is integrative, helping students to gain insight into what may underlie their distress while also cultivating tools to manage symptoms and enhance wellness. Dr. Shirley received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia. She completed her predoctoral internship training at Howard University and postdoctoral training at Georgetown University.