AMTV/LOS ANGELES, CA, Feb 13 – Today, the National Association of Counties (NACo) launched a new Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing that will develop policy and programmatic recommendations at the federal level to address systemic issues contributing to the mental health crisis affecting communities and individuals of all ages across the nation.
“In 2021, nearly one in four U.S. adults and one in five adolescents experienced a mental illness,” said NACo President Denise Winfrey. “This commission understands the urgency of the moment. It’s made up of people who, in their own communities, are seeing the effects of the mental health crisis, and have an idea of where we need to start in order to address it.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger is one of 14 County leaders from across the country who will work together to craft a response to this crisis.
“To effect lasting change in our behavioral health system, we need legislative fixes at the federal level,” stated Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who is serving as the Commission’s Co-Chair. “Lifting the federal limit on the number of beds we can have in our mental health treatment facilities and securing additional behavioral health resources has been one of my top priorities since taking office. If we want to mitigate homelessness, keep our communities safe and develop our youth to their fullest potential, we must tackle barriers to mental health support. I appreciate and welcome NACo’s partnership and leadership in this effort.”
Counties are well-positioned to lead action on the mental health crisis because counties play an integral role in local health, justice and human services systems. Direct mental health service delivery responsibilities are falling increasingly to America’s counties, who serve as the nation’s safety net for residents in need, act as first responders, operate crisis lines, and manage public hospitals and detention centers.
By advancing county policy priorities around mental health, showcasing effective community strategies, and elevating county voices, the commission will:
Stimulate a national sense of urgency through an intergovernmental partnership framework connecting the local, state, and federal levels;
Elevate national awareness around the challenges and the innovations associated with mental health through the county lens;
Pursue federal policy action, including full implementation of the Mental Health Parity standard, reforms to the IMD prohibition, repealing the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy for pre-trial detainees, and building the mental health workforce and continuum of care for the future; and
Lead a cohesive, intergovernmental strategy to enhanced the mental health and wellbeing of all Americans, with a special focus on the most vulnerable populations.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) strengthens America’s counties, including nearly 40,000 county elected officials and 3.6 million county employees. Founded in 1935, NACo unites county officials to advocate for county government priorities in federal policymaking; promote exemplary county policies and practices; nurture leadership skills and expand knowledge networks; optimize county and taxpayer resources and cost savings; and enrich the public’s understanding of county government. www.naco.org.