CSAC Bulletin Article

NACo Announces New Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing, Co-Chaired by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger

February 16, 2023

During the 2023 National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference held from February 10-14 in Washington, D.C., NACo President Denise Winfrey announced the launch of the NACo Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing, which will bring together county leaders from across the nation to take action to address the mental health crisis from the county government perspective. NACo President Winfrey appointed 14 county leaders from across the nation to the Commission, to be co-chaired by Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Kings County, Washington, County Executive Dow Constantine.

The ending keynote discussion of the NACo Legislative Conference’s Summit on Mental Health Solutions featured Co-Chair Barger sitting down with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to discuss the need for an all-of-government approach to addressing the mental health crisis. Secretary Becerra relayed stark statistics on the length of time from an initial mental health diagnosis to treatment, and touched on issues such as how the federal government is advancing its efforts on mental health parity, 988 implementation, and workforce resilience. A link to the full summit discussion is available here (Co-Chair Barger/Secretary Becerra discussion begins approximately at 1:57).

Under the leadership of the co-chairs, the Commission’s scope will include the development of policy and programmatic recommendations at the federal, state, and local levels to address systemic issues contributing to the mental health challenges in this country. The Commission will seek to advance county policy priorities and elevate county voices, through the following efforts:

  • Stimulate a national sense of urgency through an intergovernmental partnership framework, for addressing the nation’s crisis with mental health and wellbeing of residents, especially the most vulnerable.​
  • Elevate the national awareness of the roles, innovations and pain-points facing county governments in addressing this escalating crisis.​
  • Achieve NACo’s public policy agenda, such as full implementation of the Mental Health Parity standard, reform the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) prohibition, repeal the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy for pre-trial inmates, and build the mental health workforce and continuum of care for the future.​
  • Align a cohesive national and intergovernmental strategy to improve and enhance the mental health and wellbeing of all Americans, with a special focus on the most vulnerable populations.

More information about the Commission, including the full membership list, may be found on the NACo Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing webpage located here.

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