Behavioral health impacts everything a person think, do, or say. Good behavioral health is important to ensure overall wellness of a person, therefore, affordable access to support is crucial for our communities. In California, over 8 million adults and children suffer from mental illness and addiction disorders and I believe that the state can do more to expand access and promote early prevention and intervention.
I have been a proponent for improving access to mental health support, specifically, early prevention and intervention actions for youth. This year, I introduced legislation to require that all schools provide on-campus mental health services for students. According to research, 76 percent of youth with mental health conditions receive no or insufficient treatment. Studies also show that school is the best place to provide mental health services for children and I believe that early prevention and intervention will be more effective. However, my proposal was not resolved this year and I will continue to push for this policy in the upcoming year.
In addition to early mental health support, I believe that more needs to be done to integrate behavioral health treatments with overall health services. A person’s well-being involves both physical and mental health. Without proper integration, the treatment might only cure the symptoms but not the cause.
A practical way to destigmatize behavioral health conditions is to raise awareness through education. It is often due to the lack of understanding that results in harmful judgement and prejudice. I believe we need to integrate behavioral health into our education system, our health system, and community engagement. It is important that everyone understands the impacts of behavioral health conditions to ensure positive changes in laws, policies, and practices.
In addition, due to the great diversity in California, behavioral health services need to be culturally appropriate to increase effectiveness and decrease the perceived associated negative connotation. In many cultures, behavioral health conditions are still not recognized as treatable illnesses and increasing understanding would destigmatize and encourage individuals to seek out treatments. Behavioral health services need to be comprehensive to cater to people from different backgrounds.
I have been and will continue to be an advocate for behavioral health public policies that would ensure equitable access to services, improve integration of behavioral health services into our treatment system, and funding for early prevention and intervention efforts for youth. In the upcoming years, I will continue to work on these goals, especially policies to provide mental health support in schools. Early access to services helps reduce suspension and expulsion rates, tardiness, poor academic performance and problematic contact with law enforcement. School is a great place for education, increasing awareness, destigmatizing, ensuring equitable access and providing early prevention and intervention.