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Behavioral Health Champion: Governor Gavin Newsom

This week’s Behavioral Health Champion is Governor Gavin Newsom.

It’s been one year since the Behavioral Health Action Coalition met with Governor Gavin Newsom for an historic forum focusing exclusively on mental health and substance use disorders.

At the meeting, Newsom committed to working with our coalition to make California a global model for behavioral health.

  • Then Lieutenant Governor, he is the highest-ranking California official in state history to meet with such a wide array of leaders focused specifically on mental illness and substance use challenges.

Some key moments from the forum:

California needs vision: “The state doesn’t have one. There is no comprehensive strategy, there is no comprehensive plan as it relates to the issues of brain health. Only 24 – plus-or-minus – out of the 58 counties have anything that would approximate quote-on-quote comprehensive mental health services.”

On mental health parity: “We need to treat brain health on par with physical health and begin anew a conversation about an issue that impacts almost every other issue in the state of California and frame it as such with a sense of urgency that this issue requires.” 

Prioritizing prevention and early intervention: “So if you want to deal with the root causes of so many of the issues society faces, then you’ve got to begin at the beginning. That’s around a framework of prenatal care, the issues of early head start, nurse home visits, first-time mothers, educating through a framework of screenings, issues related to ACES, which is a big part of the space that obviously is coming to the fore around issues of behavioral health, and early issues that may manifest before they are diagnosed, a year, two, three, four years prior to the official diagnosis and how we can pick up on those cues.”

Breaking down stigma: I think the most significant way is you have to share your own experiences. I think that’s how you do it… You know, I lost my grandfather to suicide. And, prisoner of war 5 years, WWII, [he] came back a very different person, ultimately took his own life. I had a mother that self-medicated, deeply depressed, and self-medicated with a big can of wente jugs from Safeway, you know that’s how she went to bed. Up at 4:35, working hard, that was how she processed… I don’t think there’s a family member I have that doesn’t have some moment where they’ve struggled.” 

Leading the nation: “One thing I don’t underestimate is the enormity of this challenge… I mean it is challenging because one size does not fit all, everyone’s expression is unique, nobody else has it. It is a profoundly vexing issue, the brain, life, and yet [there is] no state more capable than this state to truly lead in this space.

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