Gov. Newsom names Darrell Steinberg to co-chair homeless task force and Dr. Tom Insel to be a key advisor on mental health policy

SACRAMENTO, CA – Gov. Gavin Newsom at a press conference Tuesday charged two of the Steinberg Institute’s leaders – Founder Darrell Steinberg and Board Member Dr. Tom Insel – with the related missions of transforming California’s programs for addressing homelessness and delivering mental health services.

Saying Sacramento Mayor Steinberg “holds a back seat to no one, particularly on the issue of mental health,” Gov. Newsom told reporters after touring a homeless shelter in Oakland that he has asked him to co-chair a Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force along with Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“It begins with a plan. The state has no plan,” the governor said.

Mayor Steinberg said the new Task Force will “hit the road” in coming months to visit cities and counties to identify solutions already working that can guide the creation of joint regional plans to address homelessness.

“We’re going to come back with a very clear set of recommendations to bring to scale that which we know already works,” said Mayor Steinberg, before introducing Gov. Newsom to reporters at the Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center transitional housing facility.

The Governor, who announced the new Task Force just days after Bay Area counties released their surveys showing significant increases in their homeless populations, said he did not want the task force to report on existing problems, but to deliver promising opportunities for investment.

Earlier this month, the Governor released his May budget revision, which included an unprecedented $1 billion to fight California’s homelessness crisis. The budget would increase emergency aid for local jurisdictions, make money available to cities and counties directly and fund permanent supportive housing or innovative approaches like motel and hotel conversions.

Highlighting the frequent link between homelessness and mental health, Gov. Newsom Tuesday also announced that he was naming Dr. Insel, a nationally noted psychiatrist and neuroscientist with both public and private sector experience, to be “a key advisor” providing insight in developing strategies to address mental health issues.

“I am delighted for the chance to help counties and the state find a better future for people with mental illness,” Dr. Insel said.

Dr. Insel will work with Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly, who attended Tuesday’s event, to “inform the state’s work as California builds the mental health system of tomorrow, serving people whether they are living in the community, on the streets or if they are in jails, schools or shelters,” according to the governor’s office.

In addition to serving on the Steinberg Institute’s board of directors, Dr. Insel is the co-founder and president of Mindstrong Health, a Silicon Valley company leveraging technology to advance mental health services. He previously led the Mental Health Team at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences); was director of the National Institute of Mental Health; and was a professor of psychiatry at Emory University, where he was founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in Atlanta.

Steinberg Institute Executive Director Maggie Merritt praised Gov. Newsom and his choice of Mayor Steinberg and Dr. Insel to these important posts.

“This is a historic moment in time,” she said. “We have never had a governor who has staked his claim on homelessness and brain health like Governor Newsom has today. We look forward to working closely with him and the cadre of passionate leaders he has assembled in their endeavor to improve the lives of the most vulnerable among us.”

For more information: Patrick Hoge, 510-435-2320, .

The Steinberg Institute is a Sacramento-based nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing sound public policy and inspiring leadership on issues of brain health.

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