Special to The Dallas Examiner
Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins is one of 14 county leaders appointed by the National Association of Counties to a new Commission on Mental Health and Wellbeing. The group, unveiled last week at NACo’s Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., is tasked with leading the development of policy and programmatic recommendations at the federal, state and local levels to address systemic issues contributing to the ever-growing mental health crisis.
“Increasing access to mental health services and improving overall wellbeing, particularly for our underserved and younger people, is one of the two overarching goals I have for the next four years,” Jenkins said. “We are in a state of unprecedented reported mental stress, and it’s imperative that we increase access to the tools that people need to live their best life.
“I’m already working with San Diego County, California and other jurisdictions on potential best practices we can incorporate. We are working with our mental health providers on searching for the best ideas to help, not just during the time that we have American Rescue Plan money to spend, but to build systems and access that continues to bless people for years to come. This new NACo Commission will allow us to share our successes and failures with one another in the hopes that we can benefit from other counties’ experiences.”
Counties are well-positioned to lead action on the mental health crisis because counties play an integral role in local health, justice and human services systems. Direct mental health service delivery responsibilities are falling increasingly to America’s counties, which serve as the nation’s safety net for residents in need, act as first responders, operate crisis lines, and manage public hospitals and detention centers.
“In 2021, nearly 1 in 4 U.S. adults and one in five adolescents experienced a mental illness,” said NACo President Denise Winfrey. “This commission understands the urgency of the moment. It’s made up of people who, in their own communities, are seeing the effects of the mental health crisis, and have an idea of where we need to start in order to address it.”