Counties Recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, Plan Advocacy Across the U.S.


WASHINGTON – The National Association of Counties (NACo) again this year will mark Mental Health Awareness Month throughout the month of May with counties advocating for solutions that support the wellbeing of residents and address the nation’s mental health crisis. Members of NACo’s Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing will convene May 2-3 in Washington, D.C. alongside NACo’s Large Urban County Caucus, the two coming together to advance policy priorities and collaborate with intergovernmental partners to modernize national guidelines for behavioral health crisis care.

“This month is about raising awareness around mental health and ensuring that robust, meaningful actions accompany that awareness,” said NACo President Mary Jo McGuire. “County leaders from across the country recognize the challenges faced by the millions of Americans struggling with mental health, and we are redoubling our efforts to advance solutions.”

Counties are advocating for policy objectives, including:

  • Reauthorizing the SUPPORT Act, which, prior to its expiration in September 2023, marked the largest federal investment in overdose prevention
  • Amending detrimental policies under Medicaid, like the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP) and the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion
  • Obtaining direct and flexible resources to support the recruitment, training and retention of a sufficient behavioral health workforce
  • Enhancing the intergovernmental partnership for the development and modernization of local crisis response systems and infrastructure, and
  • Enforcing policies that ensure equitable coverage for treatment of mental illness and addiction.

“Our policy priorities aim to reimagine mental health support,” said McGuire. “Counties see the full picture when it comes to mental health, and we are advocating for solutions that alleviate suffering, address workforce shortages, remedy systemic failures, and produce better outcomes for all.”

Counties annually invest over $80 billion in community health systems, including nearly 1,000 hospitals and over 750 behavioral health centers. Counties also help finance Medicaid, the largest funding source for mental and behavioral health services.

In addition to advocating for policy priorities in meetings with federal officials and members of Congress, county leaders will take the lead on identifying innovative strategies for modernizing the National Guidelines for Behavioral Health Crisis Care, in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and other agencies. Counties will offer examples of proven practices and facilitate discussions about integrating county-driven approaches into the updated guidelines.

Throughout May, counties will engage in a range of activities in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, including:

  • Hosting members of Congress and other state and federal policymakers at mental health facilities and other relevant sites
  • Posting messages on social media and in other public forums raising awareness of the county role in behavioral health systems
  • Issuing proclamations observing Mental Health Awareness Month
  • Convening stakeholders and decisionmakers to address local mental and behavioral health challenges, and
  • Contacting members of Congress and local media to advocate for NACo’s policy priorities, particularly the reauthorization of the SUPPORT Act.

For more information about NACo’s Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing, click here.

For more information about NACo’s call to action for Mental Health Awareness Month, click here.

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