WASHINGTON – The Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) and Mental Health America (MHA) released a report today, Reimagining Behavioral Health, that presents a new approach to mental health and substance use care and treatment in the United States. The report introduces a whole-family, whole-community behavioral health approach: a vision of a society that adequately supports mental health, physical health, and social and financial well-being. The report offers leaders in the health care, criminal justice, child welfare, workforce, and other systems a united policy agenda to ultimately improve health and economic opportunity.

“Too many people in our country struggle to access the mental health and substance use care they need. It’s hurting individuals, our families, and our communities,” said Kali Grant, Senior Policy Analyst at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. “Often, our systems that address mental health and substance use ignore socioeconomic factors, leaving people with large barriers to financial stability—like mothers with low incomes and people of color with criminal justice system involvement—at an even greater disadvantage. Any agenda to address mental health and substance use care and treatment must address poverty, and any agenda to reduce poverty must address mental health and substance use. Our nation’s prosperity depends on it.”

“We are proud to partner with GCPI on a robust plan to transform how we support behavioral health, especially for people and communities left behind in our economy,” said Nathaniel Counts, Associate Vice President of Policy at MHA. “We’re proposing a new vision for behavioral health care that goes beyond treatment to recognize that everyone’s health is tied to their surroundings and financial well-being, and their health affects their quality of life. Taking care of the whole person means supporting not just mental health treatment but physical health, and social and financial well-being—before a crisis happens.”

The state of behavioral health in America demonstrates a clear need for a new approach to mental health and substance use care and treatment.

  • Adults experiencing poverty face higher rates of mental health conditions, including co-occurring substance use and mental health conditions.
  • More Americans struggle with substance use conditions than cancer. Approximately 19.7 million (7.2 percent) individuals 12 years or older have a substance use condition.
  • People of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and survivors of violence face huge hurdles to addressing mental health and substance use challenges. For example, African Americans, Latinx people, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, American Indians, and Alaska Natives all experience higher rates of PTSD compared to their white counterparts.
  • Poverty is linked to mental health and substance use challenges—financial insecurity often means greater need and lesser means to address mental health and substance use challenges, while mental health and substance use challenges often mean greater social and financial hardship. To address either, solutions must tackle both.
  • Developed after nearly three years of research and consultation, Reimagining Behavioral Health offers concrete policy and practice recommendations at the federal, state, and local level. The report’s recommendations would create a positive social and economic context for families and empower communities to fully support individual behavioral health.

To learn more about Reimagining Behavioral Health, read the full report.


About GCPI: The Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) works with policymakers, researchers, practitioners, advocates, and people with lived experience to develop effective policies and practices that alleviate poverty and inequality in the United States.

GCPI conducts research and analysis, develops policy and programmatic solutions, hosts convenings and events, and produces reports, briefs, and policy proposals. We develop and advance promising ideas and identify risks and harms of ineffective policies and practices, with a cross-cutting focus on racial and gender equity.

The work of GCPI is conducted by two teams: The Initiative on Gender Justice and Opportunity and the Economic Security and Opportunity Initiative.

The Economic Security and Opportunity Initiative (ESOI) expands economic inclusion in the United States through rigorous research, analysis, and ambitious ideas to improve programs and policies. Further information about GCPI’s ESOI is available at www.georgetownpoverty.org.

About MHA: Mental Health America (MHA)—founded in 1909—is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need it, with recovery as the goal. Learn more at www.mentalhealthamerica.net