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Policy Issues

Mental Health Policy

Policy plays a big role in promoting mental health.  Policies are the rules that govern our lives, from how we pay taxes to what we are expected to wear to work.  Mental health policies are the rules that govern the parts of life that affect our mental health.  Policies have a big impact on people’s mental health.  They control how much we have to pay for treatment, what providers are available, and how our care is coordinated and supported.  Policies also control important accommodations and supports in areas like employment, housing, criminal justice, and education. 

Mental Health America takes a unique approach to policy.  MHA believes policy should ask people what they need to live the lives they want, and support them in getting there.  Recovery is founded on the principle that people can take on meaningful roles in the community in spite of mental health challenges, when they receive the support they need.  MHA’s goal is recovery for all.  There is nothing more important than allowing each individual, and those they care about, the chance to live the life they want with meaningful roles in the community.  

Policy can support this goal in several areas:

  • Access to Treatment – Policy controls who can buy insurance, how much they have to pay for treatment, and how much providers are reimbursed.  All of these influence our ability to get the treatment we need.
  • Quality and Coordination – Policy controls the training and standards for providers, what outcomes they need to show, and what information consumers can see when making decisions.  Policy also controls how providers work with one another to provide integrated and coordinated treatment.
  • Rights and Supports – Policy controls how people are treated, either by prohibiting certain actions, such as abuse or discrimination, or by requiring certain supports, such as reasonable accommodations in the workplace.  These policies can ensure that people are treated fairly as they work toward their recovery.
  • Social Determinants – Policy also controls other areas that affect people’s mental health.  This includes policies in all areas such as employment, housing, criminal justice, transportation, and education.


Mental Health America works with scientists, practitioners, policy experts, advocates, and other community leaders to advance policies that best help the most people. 

MHA collaborates with leaders in the mental health and policy fields to design policy recommendations that promote: prevention for all; early identification for those at risk; integrated care and treatment for those who need it; and recovery as the goal. To learn more about our legislative priorities, go to our Legislative Priorities page.

To learn about some of the bills introduced in the 114th Congress and where they fall in line with Mental Health America's legislative priorities, check out our Current Mental Health Legislation page.

MHA"s Regional Policy Committee (RPC) works with seven of our most knowledgeable affiliate public policy or executives directors across 7 regions in the country. To learn more about the RPC and to access information from past meetings, visit our Regional Policy Council page.

The relationship between states and the federal government can be confusing, particularly for advocacy work. To learn about what distinguishes the states from the federal government in terms of mental health, read our introduction on The Federal and State Role in Mental Health.

For more information on where MHA stands on important policy issues, read our Position Statements. In line with our mission, these statements use research to guide MHA's work across issues including system transformation, rights and privacy, services, children's mental health, criminal justice, and linkage to broader issues like health care reform. 

Each year, MHA gathers and provides up-to-date information about disparities faced by individuals with mental health problems as a tool for creating change. Read The State of Mental Health in America to learn more about the data on mental health prevalence and treatment throughout the United States that informs our policy work.

Our Webinars are a great source of information on areas that matter to MHA presented by MHA staff, affiliates, and other leaders and innovators in the field of mental health services and policy. 

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 Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone (703) 684.7722

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Fax (703) 684.5968

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