U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh joined mental health legislative champions in Washington, D.C., in November to launch the Mental Health Matters National Task Force on mental health and employment policy.
Hosted by NCSL and the Council of State Governments as part of the ongoing State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED), the task force leadership met to kick off and plan for the full task force convenings next spring.
The task force will develop a policy framework with a menu of bipartisan policy options and best practices for state policymakers to address employment barriers faced by people experiencing mental health challenges.
Walsh leaned on his previous experience as a state legislator and mayor to emphasize the importance of engaging state legislatures and local governments to tackle highly complex policy challenges like mental and behavioral health in the workplace. SEED is also working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors on a similar effort with local government leaders. That effort is led by Richmond, Va., Mayor Levar Stoney who attended the D.C. launch as well.
The leaders held productive discussions about efforts in their states to address mental health and its impact on employment.
Strategies like increasing mental and behavioral health insurance coverage, strengthening workplace accommodations and supports, and creating incentives to join the behavioral health workforce are only the beginning of what the task force hopes to ultimately produce for legislatures around the country.
The Mental Health Matters National Task Force is co-chaired by Sen. Becky Massey (R) and Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera (D). It also consists of four subcommittees addressing the following policy themes:
- Enhancing Nondiscrimination, Parity and Benefits.
- Expanding Access to Workplace Care and Supports and Reducing Social Stigma.
- Targeting Underserved Racial and Ethnic and Rural Communities.
- Addressing Behavioral Health Workforce Shortages and Establishing State Resource Systems.
The full task force will consist of roughly 40 state legislators, state administrators and subject matter experts from around the country. NCSL will help compile the task forces’ findings in a final report expected in June 2023.