NGA Welcomes 6 States into Youth Mental Health Policy Academy

Alabama, Hawai`i, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Virginia will participate in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) Policy Academy to Drive Thriving Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing. The Policy Academy offers participating states a yearlong opportunity designed to support them in advancing holistic efforts to protect and support strong youth mental health and emotional wellbeing across state agencies, including strategies across prevention, awareness, treatment, and community and youth engagement.

The Policy Academy will build on the 2022-2023 Chair’s Initiative on Strengthening Youth Mental Health, which culminated in a Playbook for Governors released in July 2023. As young people across the country face unprecedented mental health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governors are continuing to grapple with how to strengthen state systems and supports to meet the mental health needs of today’s youth.

With support from the Funders for Adolescent Science Translation, Penner Family Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Policy Academy will support the six participating states to advance youth mental health and wellbeing across a variety of state-led approaches, including implementation of the Strengthening Youth Mental Health Playbook, developing statewide strategic plans, and targeting specific areas of concern, including school-based mental health supports, mental health workforce development, and population-specific and culturally relevant mental health care. This project will also support states in leveraging and incorporating youth’s viewpoints, a critical part of realizing state goals and policy objectives throughout the project. Youth from each state in the Policy Academy will participate in a first-of-its-kind NGA-sponsored Youth Advisory Council, which will help inform best practices for states when incorporating lived experience perspectives into policy-making structures and decisions.

Throughout the year, participating states will receive ongoing technical assistance from NGA, expert partners, and the Policy Academy’s Youth Advisory Council to advance their goals, participate in monthly virtual learning and peer-sharing opportunities, and share out progress reports and lessons learned. While NGA received formal applications that more than doubled the available technical assistance slots, NGA is excited to continue to support all states and territories by sharing these best practices and learning opportunities with our membership networks, including the Youth Mental Health Learning Network alongside the Policy Academy. See below for more details on application focus-areas and trends.

The Policy Academy will officially kick off on March 20 when state teams will convene for collaborative learning and action planning alongside state peers and national subject matter experts.

Snapshots from State Applications:

  • Most states and territories reported a desire to build collaborative systems across diverse sets of state agencies, including child welfare, human services, health, education, workforce development, and juvenile justice.
  • In defining the current landscape of youth mental health in their states, applicants noted across the board continued historic levels of reported anxiety, depression, and suicidality. Many states also reported continued over-utilization of emergency departments for crisis intervention and lack of affordability and accessibility of care for youth.
  • Many states brought into focus different populations of at-risk youth, including those who leave school before graduation, youth from families with low incomes, youth with co-occurring disorders and substance use, and child welfare- and justice-involved youth.
  • Many states reported trends of increasingly incorporating youth voice into needs assessments and program design, including the development of governors’ youth councils, data collection among youth including surveys and focus groups, and listening sessions with youth participants.
  • States goals for the outcomes of the Policy Academy projects include more cohesive and sustainable state-led systems of care for youth, increasing accessibility of culturally-relevant mental health care, and reducing burden on families and youth to access the care and services they need.

Please reach out to Jess Kirchner ( or Jordan Hynes ( with any questions.