Behavioral Health Conditions Reach Crisis Levels: Counties Urge Stronger Intergovernmental Partnership and Outcomes
Counties are facing an acute escalation of the mental and behavioral health crisis. In a recent NACo survey, 75 percent of counties reported an increase in the incidence of behavioral health conditions over the past year and 89 percent reported an increase compared to five years ago. While counties work to respond, the financial and human cost of behavioral health is compounding across all county systems: 80 percent of counties indicated that they incurred associated costs in the legal system (courts and jails), 77 percent in law enforcement and 54 percent in the health system and hospitals.
Counties are integral to the local behavioral health system of care, investing $163 billion each year in community health, hospitals and social services, as well as $107 billion in justice and public safety systems. In at least 33 states, counties may provide traditional behavioral health services, but county leaders in every state are confronting the need to innovate when it comes to mental health, whether in county courts, jails, juvenile justice systems, hospitals, parks, libraries, housing and homelessness services or other service areas – especially other services to youth.
Despite the severity of the crisis and its strain on our resources, counties across the nation are: (1) Persevering in expanding direct or indirect behavioral health service systems to care for our residents, and (2) Advocating for federal and intergovernmental policies that support our goal of serving residents and addressing the mental and behavioral health crisis.
NACo Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing
Launched in February 2023, the NACo Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing brings together county leaders from across the nation to take action to address the ever-growing mental health crisis from the county government perspective.
On November 13, members of NACo's Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committees on Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The Commission called on Congress to support counties in delivering high-quality, assessible mental health services to address residents' comprehensive behavioral health needs in any mental health legislation package.
Every other week, NACo’s County Countdown reviews top federal policy advocacy items with an eye towards counties and the intergovernmental partnership.
Senators launch the Bipartisan Mental Health Caucus, a promising partner for NACo's Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing in advancing crucial mental health policy.
NACo submits comments on the proposed Mental Health Parity rule, championing mental health coverage, supporting fair treatment limits and robust data collection and requesting consideration of county health plan administration.
Guilford County, N.C. is aiming to reduce its racial disparity in infant mortality by 50% in five years and eliminate it completely within the next decade.