Alexandria, VA – Mental Health America today recognized two state governors for working to provide critical resources to support their communities’ mental health needs. Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey were honored with MHA’s 2022 Governor’s Leadership Award, which recognizes gubernatorial excellence in mental health policy. This prestigious award signifies that a governor’s work aligns with MHA’s core mission: a commitment to mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; and integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them.
“As we embark on another year living with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critically important that we prioritize the mental health needs of our local communities,” said Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America. “Through their respective policy agendas, Governor Polis and Governor Ducey are leading by example, demonstrating a strong commitment to those community needs and to promoting the overall mental health of all.”
Governor Jared Polis (D-CO)
Since Gov. Polis took office in 2019, he has proven that mental health care in Colorado is one of his top priorities. He has also been an ardent supporter of MHA affiliate, Mental Health Colorado.
“We're dedicated to really putting people first. It's why we created the Behavioral Health Task Force when I first took office and thanks to the Behavioral Health Task Force recommendations and the work of legislators, we now have a new Behavioral Health administration to help streamline the behavioral health system and put patients first, ensuring care for everybody who needs it, where they need it, when they need it. In addition to the Behavioral Health Administration, we've expanded telehealth services, private insurance coverage for yearly mental health screenings, [and] helped get Colorado children the mental health support they need,” Gov. Polis said in a recorded acceptance video.
Gov. Polis created the Behavioral Health Task Force in Colorado, and the Task Force recommended establishing a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) in its blueprint for reform. As a result, the Colorado Department of Human Services will establish a BHA by July 2022. Gov. Polis has also demonstrated support for telehealth expansion, mental health in schools, and prevention efforts like mental health and substance use check-ups.
Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ)
Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Ducey has ensured mental health care for Arizonans is high on his policy agenda, and has also been a supporter of MHA affiliate, Mental Health America of Arizona.
“The health impacts of the pandemic extend far beyond COVID-19. Americans across the country have suffered from anxiety, depression, burnout, substance abuse, and far too much more. It only stresses the importance of investing in mental health resources and getting Arizonans the care they need,” Gov. Ducey said in a recorded acceptance video. “In 2020, I was eager to sign a bill which requires health insurers to provide the same level of benefits for mental and substance use treatment that is provided for medical care. And last year, I signed legislation that expands telehealth coverage across our state. This will allow more Arizonans to get the care they need sooner, no matter where they live.”
Beyond his work on mental health parity and telehealth legislation, Gov. Ducey has used dollars from Arizona’s COVID-19 relief funding to build out a mental health continuum of care for adults and youth. For youth specifically, he has partnered with the Arizona legislature to establish the Children's Behavioral Health Services Fund, which aids uninsured and underinsured students in getting mental health care without concern for the costs.
About Mental Health America
Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal. Learn more at MHAnational.org.
About Mental Health America’s Regional Policy Council Meeting
The honored governors accepted their awards as part of MHA’s virtual Regional Policy Council Meeting. The council, launched in 2009, meets regularly to form a nationwide movement for a robust mental health system that promotes prevention and early intervention initiatives, access to integrated community-based treatments, and supports that are recovery-focused and that encompass community inclusion.