Behavioral health matters because off the critical role it plays in individual’s overall well-being. Additionally, matters of behavioral health cut across all ethnicities, genders, ages, and socio-economic classes making it a universal issue and priority.
Coming from a part of Riverside County that has several rural areas, I can attest to the lack of accessibility of care for those with mental health and substance use challenges. As a state, we need to make every effort to expand healthcare coverage to all residents while also expanding our public transportation networks. Expanding healthcare coverage would remove institutional access barriers. For areas that are not densely populated, an expanded public transportation system would create more access for those in need of services, particularly specialized services, that are not available in their immediate community. Housing must also be a priority. Without stable housing, it is incredibly difficult for individuals to receive the care they need. We can also increase access through our public schools. With the majority of our children going through the public school system, we would have a broader reach of addressing individual behavioral health needs by increasing the number of on-site school counselors, health clerks, nurses, and vital support services.
California can lead the way through a statewide campaign to educate the public on the frequency of behavioral health conditions. We can also lead the way by speaking open and honestly about our own experiences in order to break down the stigmas of behavioral and mental health. Additionally, our state could make it’s budget reflect our values. If we know education, health care, housing, and accessibility are the top priorities for meeting the behavioral and mental health needs of Californians, then those should be the same top priorities in the California budget.
I will absolutely commit myself to embracing behavioral health as a public policy priority.