Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger is one of 14 county leaders from across the country who have been named to a new Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing created by the National Association of Counties.
The new group will be tasked with developing 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, according to a prepared statement released by Barger’s office.
“To effect lasting change in our behavioral health system, we need legislative fixes at the federal level,” Barger, who is serving as the commission’s co-chair, said in the statement. “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.”
“In 2021, nearly one in four U.S. adults and one in five adolescents experienced a mental illness,” NACo President Denise Winfrey said in the statement. “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.”
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, the statement said. Direct mental health service delivery responsibilities are falling increasingly to America’s counties, which 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.
The statement said that, by advancing county policy priorities around mental health, showcasing effective community strategies, and elevating county voices, the commission will seek to:
• 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, repealing the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy for pretrial detainees, and building the mental health workforce and continuum of care for the future.
• Lead a cohesive, intergovernmental strategy to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of all Americans, with a special focus on the most vulnerable populations.