CEO Message

Standing Together to Face California’s Behavioral Health Crisis 

This space — the weekly message from CHA’s President & CEO — is typically reserved to share the most up-to-date information about critical state and federal policy and advocacy developments. It’s an opportunity that I deeply value, to communicate directly with you, the members of the California Hospital Association who rely on the work this team does on your behalf. 

This week, in the heart of Mental Health Awareness Month, this space is being shared with a colleague, a fierce health care advocate, co-chair of Behavioral Health Action, and a friend. Jessica Cruz, the executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) California, joins me as co-author of this piece, because the movement to eradicate stigma, extend support, and advocate for policies that prioritize the well-being of individuals and families affected by mental illness touches every one of us. 

This year, Mental Health Awareness Month is being celebrated with the Take the Moment campaign — an opportunity to lend our collective voice to the compassionate and invaluable work organizations like NAMI California do to support individuals and their families on their journey toward mental wellness. 

These individuals and their families often turn to hospitals at the point of crisis, when their conditions have become severe and even life-threatening. The work of NAMI California and other organizations aims to provide support and intervention well before the need for hospital care. Both types of services are essential if we are to improve the lives of millions of Californians facing mental health and substance use disorders (SUDs).  

The challenge is immense. One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, yet only half of them receive treatment. The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is a staggering 11 years.  

We can do better. But only if we work together. Hospitals are a key part of the mental health solution, and it is only with partners like NAMI California that we can hope to make meaningful progress on this endemic health care challenge. As an example, the work of Behavioral Health Action — a key partnership whose foundation lies in trust and shared values — was instrumental in the passage of Prop 1, a sweeping modernization of the state’s mental health system passed in March that will refocus billions of dollars to prioritize Californians with the deepest mental health needs, living in encampments, or suffering the worst SUDs.  

We encourage all of you, in your capacity as health care leaders, to lend your voice and support to improving the lives of Californians with mental health conditions — now, during this month of recognition — and into the future as we stand together to face a crisis that profoundly affects every one of us.