Special to the Times
During the challenging times of a global pandemic, where screening data from Mental Health America(MHA) consistently shows extreme rates of depression, anxiety, isolation, and loneliness, the organization is recognizing three leaders for stepping up with critical resources to support their communities’ mental health needs.
New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy, Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Wolf, and Massachusetts’ Gov. Charlie Baker were recently honored with MHA’s national B4Stage4 Leadership Award, which recognizes excellence in mental health. This prestigious award signifies a commitment to treating behavioral health conditions before they’ve hit Stage 4 – a crisis. The award also recognizes ongoing support of the behavioral health community.
“We are honored to recognize leaders making a difference on the front lines of mental health. Half of Americans are struggling with mental health this year, and the need for leaders who will advocate for mental health resources has never been greater,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. “Governors Baker, Murphy, and Wolf have shown a deep commitment to raising awareness about mental health needs and they are prioritizing policy changes to create systemic reforms.”
Gov. Charles Baker has been a supporter of MHA affiliate Massachusetts Association for Mental Health during his six years in office.
“It’s an honor to be a recipient of MHA’s B4Stage4 Governor’s Award this year,” said Gov. Baker. “Our administration is proud to treat behavioral health with the urgency it requires, increasing state spending by more than $400 million and expanding access to care through innovations like telehealth. We remain committed to doing all we can to prioritize behavioral health, reduce stigma and get people the help they need.”
From 2015-2019, his administration invested $1.9 billion in behavioral health across the spectrum of care. In 2019, Gov. Baker introduced comprehensive health care legislation, which included promoting access to behavioral health and reducing its costs to consumers. During the pandemic, he launched a new crisis counseling assistance program, MassSupport, in English and Spanish. This month, Gov. Baker also signed comprehensive health care legislation that requires coverage of telehealth services for behavioral health care.
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.