Behavioral Health

Governors play a critical role in addressing behavioral health in their state, including both mental health and substance use disorders. The Behavioral Health Program supports governor’s offices by providing evidence-informed promising and best practices that promote behavioral health to improve the lives and wellbeing of their constituents.

Since 2012, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices has supported states in their efforts to help prevent and treat substance use disorders and overdose. The Behavioral Health team leads several initiatives that address substance use and related consequences and is supporting efforts to promote mental health and wellbeing.

Featured Initiatives

Implementing a Continuum of Care to Prevent Overdose Policy Academy

To support states with operationalizing recommendations from the publication, “Implementing a Continuum of Care to Prevent Overdose: A Roadmap for Governors” the Behavioral Health team is leading a policy academy for states. The Center will support up to four states with implementation of a policy recommendation from the roadmap through the Policy Academy, which will kick off in January 2024.

Leveraging EMS to Address Overdose Learning Collaborative

This learning collaborative will support up to four states with exploring ways EMS can expand their scope of practice to address the overdose crisis. Policies may include mechanisms that authorize EMS to dispense buprenorphine, divert patients from emergency departments and allow EMS to leave naloxone kits behind on the scenes of overdose.

Implementing State Strategies to Address Infectious Disease Due to Drug Use Learning Collaborative

This learning collaborative will support up to four states with exploring interventions that address the intersection of infectious diseases, including congenital syphilis, hepatitis-c, HIV, and drug use. This virtual collaborative kicked-off in December 2023 and will wrap up in July ‘24.

Implementing a Trauma-Informed Approach to Address Addiction and Overdose Policy Academy

This policy academy will support up to four states with identifying strategies that support a trauma-informed approach to addressing addiction and overdose. States will convene for a kick-off meeting in February 2024 and will wrap up in July 2024.

Meet The Team

  • Marianne Gibson, Program Director
  • Dana Heilman, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Alex Entner, Policy Analyst

Our Focus Areas

  • Sharing evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction and recovery strategies/ programs.
  • Using data and evaluation in policy development to promote behavioral health.
  • Mitigation of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences to prevent substance use.
  • Promoting equity across the substance use continuum of care programs and policies.
  • Expanding access to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD).
  • Identifying trends in polysubstance use and identifying comprehensive responses to addiction.
  • Addressing infectious diseases related to SUD/OUD.
  • Cannabis (Emerging)


  • Strategic planning facilitation and best practice guidance on behavioral health topics
  • Strategic guidance, feedback, and meeting facilitation support to relevant advisors
  • Annual Health and Human Services Summit
  • Health Policy Advisors Network
  • Opioid State Action Network (OSAN)
  • Multi-state projects
  • Customized research briefs and best practice presentations upon request

Behavioral Health Library

Governors Adopt Policy Positions During NGA Winter Meeting

WASHINGTON—At the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, governors adopted policy positions for the five NGA committees: Economic Development and Commerce (EDC), Education and Workforce (EdW), Health and Human Services ...


2.1 Preamble Governors across the country face significant challenges in their efforts to ensure the sustainability of health care programs amidst rising health care costs. To put these programs on ...

NGA Holds Policy Event, Releases Housing as Health Care Road Map for States

WASHINGTON—The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) Health Division hosted an event at the National Press Club to discuss its new tool,  Housing as Health Care. NGA gathered ...

States Improve Rural Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

The National Governors Association (NGA) today announced that three states, Minnesota, South Dakota and Virginia, will participate in an NGA learning lab to help combat the opioid epidemic. The project ...

Housing as Health Care: A Road Map for States

Evidence suggests that providing housing to certain high-need, high-cost patients can transform lives and have a very meaningful return on investment. Over the past three years, National Governors Association Center ...

Attorney General to Governors: Use PDMPs to Tackle Opioid Abuse

President Obama proclaimed September 18-24, 2016, as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. As part of the Administration’s efforts to combat the crisis, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued a ...

States Take On Heroin, Illicit Fentanyl to Combat Opioid Epidemic

The National Governors Association (NGA) today announced that seven states, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, will participate in an NGA learning lab to help combat the opioid epidemic. Through the ...

Governors Sign Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction

WASHINGTON—Forty-six governors have signed the Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction, developed by and released today through the National Governors Association (NGA). By signing the compact, governors are agreeing to redouble their ...

A Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction

Governors have long been at the forefront of efforts to prevent and treat opioid addiction, working with health care providers, law enforcement and other stakeholders to mount a comprehensive response ...