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CHA-Led Behavioral Health Action Coalition Hosts Governor’s New Mental Health Advisor

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Tom Insel, MD, Gov. Newsom’s special advisor on mental health care, spoke on June 25 to the statewide Behavioral Health Action coalition — a group of more than 50 organizations that is co-founded and co-chaired by CHA and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, California. Dr. Insel shared with coalition members his ideas for how California can begin to transform its behavioral health system. 

According to Insel, the state spends $10 billion per year on mental health care, but the system of delivering appropriate care is in crisis.  

“This is the moment. We need clear direction and focus,” Insel said.

Jessica Cruz, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness, California, and Carmela Coyle, CHA President & CEO

He discussed key opportunities for transforming behavioral health care during the next five years, challenging coalition members to envision how California can improve its mental health care delivery 10-fold by 2023. Insel emphasized building on the current administration’s leadership and commitment to mental health, an existing $21 billion state surplus, intellectual capital within the UC system and other systems of care, and $2 billion in available Mental Health Services Act funding to accelerate innovation.

According to Insel, clear direction should begin with a commitment to shared goals and an understanding of the current crisis, including:

  • 4.2% of adults in California have a serious mental illness, and 7.6% of children have a serious emotional disturbance, which equates to 2 to 3 million Californians suffering with a behavioral health condition.
  • Many of those suffering do not receive the care they need. 
  • Suicide rates are higher in rural areas of Northern California than in the rest of the state.
  • The prevalence of people needing mental health services varies by race, ethnicity, and income.
  • The number of adolescents suffering from depressive illnesses in California continues to outpace the U.S. rate.  
  • Per capita suicide rates are higher in California, and nationally, than deaths due to homicides.