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
  • Chyenne Tran, Policy Analyst
  • Grace Burns, Policy Coordinator

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

State Strategies for Averting Early Deaths

Death by suicide is a complex individual, relational and public health problem. The incidence of such deaths over the past two decades has increased nearly 30%, with half of states ...

Leveraging Data to Unleash Innovation & Curb the Opioid Epidemic

In the complex fight against the opioid overdose epidemic, states can use data to identify critical needs, direct resources and drive policymaking. An NGA survey of 41 states conducted in ...

Emerging Trends in the Evolving Opioid Epidemic

While the opioid overdose epidemic justifiably dominates national and state-level headlines, a significant issue is re-emerging for governors and policymakers across the country: cocaine, methamphetamine (meth) and stimulants are inflicting ...

Opioid Reference Guide for New Administrations

Developed by the NGA Center through a survey and extensive consultation with senior state officials and other national experts, our new opioid "Reference Guide for New Administrations" highlights key questions, ...

NGA Opioid Summit for New Administrations

Washington, DC | April 8-9, 2019 AGENDA From April 8-9. NGA hosted the Opioid Summit for New Administrations in Washington, D.C. Public health and public safety officials from 33 states ...

NGA to Assist 13 States in Strengthening Policies Against Impaired Driving

Columbus, Ohio, Summit Kicks Off Technical Assistance to States To address the grim and growing toll of impaired driving, the National Governors Association is working with 13 states on efforts ...