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Behavioral Health Champion: Former Senator Richard Pan

As part of Behavioral Health Action’s in-depth interview series called Behavioral Health Champions, Dr. Richard Pan sat down with us to discuss solutions to California’s behavioral health crisis. Watch the full interview above and read some of his key quotes below:

  • Key quote: “I think one of the things we’re going to need to do is to step back a bit and say, ‘How should we better organize and finance our mental health system in a way that can better serve our patients?'”
  • Dr. Pan on stigma: “The brain is an organ. It’s an organ of the body, it’s supported by the body and so when you have problems with the function of the brain, you develop symptoms and there should be equal treatment but unfortunately, there’s often shame attached to that and there’s a different cultural context.”
  • Is California doing a good job of addressing behavioral health issues? We can do much better…So we have this divide we have in the way we structure things, we have divide in the coverage and then the other thing I also want to speak about is that mental health, as I said, is treatable but it is pretty much generally a chronic condition. Unfortunately, we’ve not yet invented cures for most mental health conditions. These are chronic conditions kind of like asthma or emphysema or other physical chronic conditions and our health care system and the way we finance it is actually challenged in terms of supporting people’s chronic conditions.”
  • On prevention and early intervention: “I have a bill this year to train teachers and other staff in schools to provide what we call, “Mental Health First Aid” to identify people but I also want to recognize that while we can train teachers and staff to identify and also maybe do some initial intervention, it’s like teaching someone CPR, right? If there isn’t a system to back them up, someone can only do CPR for so long and the person’s still not going to do well, right?”
  • The doctor is in – Dr. Pan’s thoughts on Dr. Insel, California’s new key mental health advisor: I’m really excited that Governor Newsom has found someone to be a mental health director and who is interested in looking at innovation as well and looking forward to working with him in the Governor’s office around this. This is really going to be something, that not only…most importantly, [we] want to improve outcomes, we want to improve people’s lives but also I think we’ll improve a bottom line in terms of budget as well.”


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