Mental and behavioral health is a serious concern in our society. Behavioral health challenges affect people from all walks of life and socioeconomic status. According to the California Health Care Foundation, nearly one in six California adults has a mental health concern, and one in 20 suffer from significant mental illness. Unfortunately, many individuals are reluctant to ask for help due to the social stigma associated with seeking treatment. Untreated behavioral health issues can prevent individuals from coping with the stresses of life, working productively, realizing their full potential and making meaningful contributions to their communities. In addition, behavioral health problems affect family members and friends of the individual, as well as innocent bystanders who may become victims of individuals who did not obtain treatment.
California should enact policies that encourage implementation of preventative measures and improve counselor and psychologist student ratios in public schools so that students struggling with behavioral health concerns have better access to these professionals and referral services to meet their needs. Community wraparound services and comprehensive care should be better coordinated among agencies and organizations that provide treatment for those with mental illness and substance abuse challenges.
I believe that behavioral health should be a public policy priority. With statewide coalitions of health care providers as well as representatives from law enforcement, education, labor, the court system, local governments and business we can begin to destigmatize behavioral health conditions through community awareness and public education. Common behavioral health issues can be discussed and solutions identified at forums and workshops at school and community events.
Elected officials, non-profits and community stakeholders can identify and apply for grants and federal funding to support programs that serve those with behavioral health issues. Elected officials can prioritize state budgeting for programs and work to reduce red tape and barriers to licensing to ensure that there are enough behavioral health professionals available to help those in need.