The urgency and importance of transforming California’s mental health systems were highlighted by political leaders, experts and actor, director and producer Halle Berry at a recent event exploring the work of the Steinberg Institute.
Hosted by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass at the Getty House on September 27, speakers included Los Angeles County Board Chair Janice Hahn, Steinberg Institute founder Darrell Steinberg and distinguished Homeless and Mental Health expert Dr. Margot Kushel from UCSF School of Medicine.
In a moving, personal presentation, Ms. Berry shared how childhood trauma negatively impacted her mental health, and the importance of therapy early in her life. Ms. Berry, an ambassador for Jenesse Center, a nonprofit domestic violence intervention and prevention organization also noted the importance of mental health when working with domestic violence survivors.
“I stand here today, not only a survivor, I stand here as someone who has benefitted from mental health care,” said Ms. Berry. “I continue to benefit from mental health care. My psychologist is my lifeline.”
Mayor Bass praised Steinberg Institute founder Darrell Steinberg’s commitment to mental illness policy, recalling her time working with him in the California legislature. County Supervisor Hahn noted the importance of the new 988 crisis line, implemented in California through AB 988, a bill co-sponsored by the Steinberg Institute.
Dr. Margot Kushel, whose recent research explored the prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorder among California’s unhoused population, said California desperately needs more housing units and care for people facing mental illness and substance use challenges. She also highlighted the societal inequities impacting who ends up homeless in California.
“We cannot talk about homelessness without naming the impact of racism and how it has seeded this crisis,” said Dr. Kushel. “Black Americans are overrepresented over four fold, and Indigenous Americans eightfold. And the numbers of LatinX Americans experiencing homelessness are rising rapidly.”
Steinberg Institute Board of Directors Treasurer Stephanie Graves and former Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin welcomed guests and shared important perspectives on the challenge facing our mental health and substance use care systems. Institute founder and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg shared the Institute’s journey, impact and vision for the future.
“We have led the charge to begin improving the mental health system in CA,” said Mayor Steinberg. “Our work is just beginning. We now have the public attention, the system is still broken. There are not enough people getting help.”
“We’re so grateful for the opportunity to share our story with such an engaged group of Southern California leaders,” said Steinberg Institute CEO, Karen Larsen. “Thank you, Mayor Bass for hosting this important event and thank you to our speakers for sharing your passion and expertise. “
Mayor Steinberg called on everyone to work together to address the challenge of our time: fixing our mental health and substance use care systems to ensure care for all.
“I’d like to say that hopefully today is the start of some wonderful work that we can do together with the Steinberg Institute,” said Ms. Berry. “Because I am 100% committed to the change.”