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Mental Health Resource Guide for State Policymakers

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health. Fortunately, this global pandemic has also placed a spotlight on both the long-standing challenges in providing mental health services and the programs, policies, interventions and legal remedies that have proven most effective in addressing those challenges.

As the pandemic entered its second year, The Council of State Governments (CSG) embarked on a nine-month partnership with The Commonwealth Fund to assemble this Mental Health Resource Guide for State Policymakers. The goal of the project was to highlight the challenges and solutions across these four focus areas in mental health policy:

  • Social isolation and loneliness
  • Maternal mental health
  • Social determinants of mental health
  • Mental health insurance parity

To inform the content of this resource guide, CSG formed a 19-member advisory group made up of state legislators from six states, state executive branch health officials from eight additional states and subject-matter experts in each focus area. During a series of meetings in the spring and summer of 2021, the group heard presentations about existing research findings related to the challenges in each area and shared strategies for addressing them. The discussions were informed by the work of the CSG research team, which produced extensive research and policy scans for each focus area.

With oversight from The Commonwealth Fund and input from other stakeholders, CSG policy analysts and researchers drew on information gleaned during the advisory group sessions, those extensive summaries and additional research to produce the series of briefs that comprise this resource guide. Each focus area section includes:

  • A policy brief that succinctly defines the issue, considers the policy challenges and reviews the menu of legislative, programmatic and other opportunities available to policymakers based on previously enacted successful policies
  • A brief on approaches to data collection and analysis that advises policymakers on strategies to build research that is focused on the most effective interventions and that addresses how to emulate successful programs and how to implement experimental research designs for new programs
  • A case study brief highlighting a successful program, intervention, initiative or state law designed to address a particular negative outcome, often within a specific community, that has been championed by state policymakers or others

As the nation begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the strategies contained within this resource guide can help policymakers address the mental health challenges that have united many Americans during this time, despite differences in age, race, identity, geography, political leaning or cultural affiliation. These strategies — from the simplest to the most complex — can be an important step forward to further connecting individuals and communities, recognizing the importance of mental health to a collective future.