WIG Seats a National Task Force

National Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Holds Inaugural Meeting

Women In Government heard from members about the growing epidemic in their state and seated the National Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.  Co-chaired by Senator Jen Flanagan (Massachusetts) and Representative Lois Landgraf (Colorado), this group of determined women state legislators are passionate about improving state policy.

The National Task Force represents an impressive group of women legislative leaders focused on mental health and substance use policies that substantially address the many challenges that take such a toll on Americans in your districts, states and nationally.  Mental disorders are among the top five most costly medical conditions and substance abuse overtook motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among people ages 25-64. 

The group will collaborate to develop state policy responses, fresh ideas and create effective partnerships. An initial brainstorming session was held during WIG’s Annual State Directors’ Conference on January 11, 2016. At that meeting, legislators from across the country shared their states’ successes and challenges to address the growing and diverse mental health and substance use issues that are impacting our communities. 

Members of the task force met for their inaugural meeting in April 2016 to begin discussion on efforts for a legislative toolkit and oversight of the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Summit in June.  Outcomes from the meeting included a set of policy priorities which include:

  • Education and prevention – screening, destigmatizing, targeted populations such as birth to three, high risk populations, veterans, students, elderly, women/postpartum, prisoners, general public and consumers
  • Data collection, analysis and sharing – trends and impact to inform effective policymaking
  • Education and training of professionals – doctors, law enforcement, first responders, medical schools, educators, health care clinicians, school staff
  • Housing – stability and sense of community
  • Access to quality coordinated care – support through transportation, credentialed providers, parity implementation, appropriate licensure, and access to telehealth
  • Recovery – organic community support
  • Judicial – support from specialty courts, effective use of probation, jail diversion programs