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Guiding Principles

The behavioral health services anyone might receive must be individualized to address each person’s unique needs and preferences — but the way services are experienced by clients should be high-quality, appropriate, and effective. The guiding principles below emphasize what is important to Behavioral Health Action as the continuum of services described in this document are delivered.


All services offered should:

  1. Prioritize prevention and early intervention strategies to prevent the need for higher levels of care, particularly with children and youth
  2. Be provided in a timely manner and in the least restrictive setting possible. For children and youth, this includes services provided to prevent their treatment in out-of-state programs
  3. Embrace recovery, resilience, and wellness principles and practices, with a focus on strengthening the individual
  4. Involve family members, caregivers, parents, and other natural supports, when appropriate, in treatment decisions and as a critical source of support
  5. Be provided in culturally and linguistically competent ways to reduce disparities in access and quality of care
  6. Use evidence-based practices when available, but also include “practice-based evidence” of programs and interventions with proven outcomes whether they were part of a formal study or research protocol
  7. Respect and promote individuals’ rights, including the rights to be treated with respect, dignity, and independence, and to be fully informed
  8. Be provided in a trauma-informed way by providers at all levels who have received training and education about trauma’s role in behavioral health
  9. Be easy to navigate and access, with information readily available through the telephone, internet, and among health insurers and providers


Providers and leaders working as a system should adopt a standard of care for behavioral health, and in doing so they should:

  1. Actively seek and utilize input from individuals and families from diverse communities with lived experience, as well as consult with cultural brokers and leaders from underserved communities, when developing behavioral health services and supports
  2. Utilize peer providers and community health workers as a key component of the behavioral health workforce and utilize their support throughout the continuum of care
  3. Recognize the critical role that families play in the support, recovery, and development of children and adults
  4. Overcome and eliminate barriers to providing an integrated care experience for individuals with mental health, substance use disorder, and primary care needs
  5. Require collaboration and coordination among the many state-level agencies, commissions, and councils involved in the administration of behavioral health
  6. Monitor providers and plans and measure performance to assess the quality of care provided to individuals and families
  7. Embrace non-stigmatizing language and practices and make investments in educating and training others in the community to reduce the stigma experienced by individuals and families with behavioral health needs
  8. Prioritize and actively seek to coordinate among the local-level governmental health, social service, and justice systems to maximize limited resources
  9. Increase opportunities for public and private partnerships, including in designing innovations for behavioral health care, improving data sharing, streamlining referrals, and investing in workforce development
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A New Standard for Behavioral Health Care in California




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