Washington, D.C. – The chief executives of the nation’s 14 leading mental health advocacy organizations and professional associations today announced the formation of a unified coalition with a common vision in response to the nation’s mental health crisis.
“The CEOs of many of the major mental health organizations in the nation affirmed our collective commitment to the mental health of the nation and a reimagined system of care for people with mental illnesses,” said Mental Health America’s President and CEO Paul Gionfriddo. “This new system would be built from the needs of real people, not providers or advocates. And it focuses on prevention, early identification and intervention, integrated services, and recovery for all – for which MHA has been advocating for a century.”
As more than half of all Americans struggle with their mental health due to the impact of COVID-19, the leadership group is a first-of-its-kind, solutions-focused collaboration among the top mental health organizations and their chief executives to address the crisis and offer state and regional officials a blueprint for systemic reform. The partnership effectively establishes and rallies a rarely seen solidarity in the mental health space. It speaks to the urgency of the mental health emergency, reminiscent of previous collaborations established to address major health crises, including cancer in the 1970s and the HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.
“The pandemic has focused the nation’s attention on mental health and the inequities baked into our service delivery system,” Gionfriddo said. “If implemented, the principles and strategies imbedded in this visioning document will address those inequities and ensure that no person – of any racial, ethnic, or cultural group – with a mental health condition is ever again treated as a second-class citizen, as a danger to themselves or others, or as someone whose unavoidable health condition is somehow their own fault.”
The leadership coalition is comprised of CEOs from the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the Kennedy Forum, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Mental Health America, the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Health, One Mind, Pegs Foundation, the Steinberg Institute, the Treatment Advocacy Center and Well Being Trust.
The leadership coalition’s plan – titled A Unified Vision for Transforming Mental Health and Substance Abuse Care – calls for policy, programs and standards that prioritize mental health care and address the social and economic conditions – including racism and discrimination – that disproportionately impact people of color and the poor, and result in inadequate and inequitable access to effective, humane treatment.
And the coalition is calling on the nation’s federal, state, and local public officials to respond.
“It will take the commitment of our nation’s public officials to redirect the billions of dollars being wasted each year on incarceration and other failed systems of care to a public health model such as this,” Gionfriddo concluded. “But these billions of dollars – now properly invested – will save countless lives and trillions of dollars in the years to come.”
Organizations and CEO Leadership
American Psychiatric Association / CEO & Medical Director: Saul Levin, MD, MPA, FRCP-E
American Psychological Association / CEO and Exec. Vice President: Arthur C. Evans, Jr., PhD
Kennedy Forum / Former U.S. Rep. (D-RI) and Founder, Kennedy Forum: Patrick J. Kennedy
Massachusetts Assn for Mental Health / President and CEO, Danna Mauch, PhD
Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute / President and CEO, Andy Keller, PhD
Mental Health America / President and CEO, Paul Gionfriddo
National Assn for Behavioral Healthcare / President and CEO: Shawn Coughlin
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) / CEO, Daniel H. Gillison, Jr.
National Council for Behavioral Health / President and CEO, Charles Ingoglia, MSW
OneMind / Chairman, Garen Staglin; President, Brandon Staglin
Pegs Foundation / President, Rick Kellar, M.B.A.
Steinberg Institute / Chair, Thomas Insel, M.D. (former director NIMH until 2015)
Treatment Advocacy Center / Executive Director: John Snook
Well Being Trust / Chief Executive: Tyler Norris, MDiv