Transforming California's mental health and substance use care systems through education, advocacy, accountability, and inspired leadership.

Our founder, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg delivers a passionate TEDx talk. He sheds light on the most under attended issue of our time – mental illness.

Our Vision

California sets the standards for the nation in prevention, treatment and recovery; where all people receive quality care and support when, where, and for as long as they need it.


Our Story

The Steinberg Institute was created to upend the status quo and dramatically raise the profile and increase the effectiveness of mental health policy-making in California. Founded by Sacramento Mayor and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the institute is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing sound public policy and inspiring leadership on issues of mental health.

Since its inception in January 2015, the institute has helped enact sweeping improvements in California mental health policy, including securing $2 billion to provide housing and care for homeless people living with mental illness (No Place Like Home); promoting prevention and early intervention programs and research so that young people receive the care they need before their condition becomes disabling; expanding suicide prevention programs at public schools, as well as funding for college mental health services; advocating for sentencing reform and law enforcement training with the aim of decriminalizing mental illness; leading the way on implementation of the new 988 crisis line and educating elected officials and business leaders so that they embrace quality mental health care as a top-tier priority.

Inspiring leadership is critical to the Steinberg Institute’s mission. Each May, during Mental Health Awareness Month, we honor Mental Health Champions. We’re inspired by these unsung heroes working across all facets of care delivery, advocacy and policymaking to ensure their fellow Californians get the mental health and substance use care they deserve. 

Despite momentum around destigmatizing mental illness, serious challenges remain. Our most vulnerable are still being left behind, not receiving the care they deserve – often ending up in our jails, hospitals and on our streets. Our youth are crying out for more mental health support. We still don’t have a sufficient behavioral health workforce to meet the need. 

To meet the moment, in 2022 the Steinberg Institute team developed a Strategic Plan, outlining our goals as an organization.  We seek to transform California’s systems of care for those living with mental health and substance use disorders by establishing a right to care for all; ensuring a system that prioritizes transparency and accountability and health equity; and inspiring leadership and spreading innovation and best practices.

Our staff and board also produced new Mission and Vision statements, clearly stating our objective of transforming California’s systems of care and establishing the state as a leader, ensuring people receive quality care.


The Steinberg Institute brings a unique understanding of state politics and public policy. Our top priorities include:

Prevention & Early Intervention
Tackling the Homlessness Crisis
Upending the Status Quo
Addressing the Workforce Shortage
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About the Steinberg Institute Identity

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