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California Introduces New Wellness Coach Program Aimed at Building a More Diverse Behavioral Health Workforce to Help Children and Youth

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What You Need to Know: The new Certified Wellness Coaches program will work in schools and with community-based organizations, supporting existing clinical staff and care teams, to provide wellness promotion, education, support, and referral services to all our youth.

SACRAMENTO – California’s Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI) is introducing a new state certification program aimed at helping children and youth through age 25 who are struggling with behavioral health challenges. The new Certified Wellness Coach role was created as part of the state’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI) to increase California’s overall capacity to support the growing behavioral health needs of the state’s youth. HCAI has launched a new website,, that provides details about the new Wellness Coach role and how to apply for certification.

“The Certified Wellness Coach program is an integral component of our work to reimagine and build a stronger, more effective ecosystem of behavioral health services and supports for children and youth in California,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “This work has only been possible because of the collaboration of our many partners.”

“One of our goals is to destigmatize needing help,” said HCAI Director Elizabeth Landsberg. “We want mental health wellness to be as natural to talk about as wearing your seatbelt and eating your vegetables. Kids need to be seen and heard, and we hope our Certified Wellness Coaches will help them learn how to talk about their feelings and know that it’s okay to ask for help.”

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Nearly half of the state’s adolescents struggle with mental health challenges. To support California youth, Certified Wellness Coaches will help build a larger and more diverse behavioral health workforce with the training and supervision needed to engage directly with young people in a wide variety of settings, such as schools and community-based organizations. Wellness Coaches will provide non-clinical services to support the behavioral health and well-being of young people, including wellness promotion and education, screening, care coordination, individual and group support, and crisis referral. They will work as part of a larger care team and under the direction of a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credentialed or licensed professional.

“We also hope Certified Wellness Coaches will ease the workload of busy school psychologists, counselors and clinical staff at community-based organizations,” Landsberg said. “By handling broader, non-clinical services, Wellness Coaches will increase access to key well-being and support services for youth and allow licensed or credentialed staff to focus on youth who may have more complex needs or require higher levels of support.”

ABOUT CERTIFIED WELLNESS COACH PROGRAM: HCAI is working with state universities and community colleges to develop curriculum that will be available in fall 2024 for interested candidates with no prior education or experience.

The Wellness Coach certificate will initially be free when it is launched in 2024. Annual scholarships will be available to help with educational and related expenses, and employer support grants will be available to assist organizations with hiring new Wellness Coaches. Those currently working in mental health, substance use disorder, social work, or child welfare will be able to apply for the “Workforce Pathway” to certification, and once certified, begin making a difference in the lives of children and youth. Candidates taking this path to certification will also need an associate or bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as Social Work, Health & Human Services, Addiction Studies, Child Development/Early Intervention, Psychology, or Sociology.

The new role is inspired by successful programs and models from across the state and country, such as the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Behavioral Health Aid Program, which created a new role to provide culturally-relevant support for behavioral health and substance use needs.

This program is made possible through funding from the CYBHI, which is part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, a historic investment by the State of California to address the factors that contribute to the mental health and well-being of our children and youth.

LEARN MORE: Both interested Wellness Coach applicants and employers can learn more about the new state-certified Wellness Coach profession at