Strengthening Youth Mental Health

The United States faces a nationwide youth mental health crisis. The roots of this crisis existed before COVID-19, but the pandemic has both exacerbated and highlighted the scope of the challenges in addressing this issue. The time is right and the need has never been more apparent to discuss proven and innovative solutions for states.

Governor Murphy and Governor Polis Join Forces To Tackle Youth Mental Health Crisis

The second roundtable of the 2022-2023 NGA Chair’s Initiative: Strengthening Youth Mental Health was held on January 24-25, 2023, in Santa Monica, California. During the two-day roundtable, NGA Chair New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Colorado Governor Jared Polis held discussions with parents, physicians, pediatric psychologists, educators, policymakers and other mental health experts. Conversations focused on challenges and solutions connected to raising awareness and reducing stigma. New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper also spoke at the event, highlighting holistic efforts to support children and parents – including Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ initiative focused on maternal and infant health.

“The youth mental health crisis isn’t unique to New Jersey or California – it’s an issue that transcends both state and party lines. From small towns to big cities, parents, children, and educators are confronting this struggle in their everyday lives. We need a comprehensive approach to not only connect young people with resources, but empower parents and teachers to identify signs of mental health challenges and provide positive support. By holding these convenings with Governors from across the country and across the aisle, we are working to raise awareness, encourage action, and find real mental health solutions that any state can make their own.”

Governor Phil Murphy

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governors and states meet on prevention and resilience in youth mental health

On October 18-19, 2022, in Salt Lake City, Utah, National Governors Association (NGA) Chair New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and NGA Vice Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox held the first of four roundtables to discuss the 2022-2023 NGA Chair’s Initiative: Strengthening Youth Mental Health. A strong state contingent was represented, including Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. States were joined by over fifty community leaders, academic experts, and representatives from partner organizations and funders.

The convening centered on practical solutions for the first of the initiative’s four pillars: prevention and resilience building. Discussions forged connections across the public and private sectors, shared best practices across states and territories to amplify their impact, and aligned on ways that Governors can further support youth mental health.

Key themes on prevention and resilience were unpacked across three discussions that centered the voices of those with first-hand experience of youth mental health from different perspectives; focused on applying the brain and behavioral science of resiliency, specifically to provide opportunities to build and rebuild mental health in youth; and oriented the group towards practical and implementable solutions. Credentials spanning academia, government, business, and community service were interwoven with personal stories of delegates’ lived experience.  

Despite the immense challenge, the roundtable discussion coalesced around hope: evidence shows that prevention and resilience building in childhood and adolescence can fundamentally change the trajectory of a child and family’s life. Given supportive environments and the right skillset, the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and exposure to toxic stress can be successfully managed to prevent mental health challenges from developing or worsening. Strengthening youth mental health, starting with prevention and a focus on resilience, needs to be a key priority within all levels of government, and across all sectors of society.

About the Initiative

Governor Phil Murphy’s 2022-2023 Chair’s Initiative is focused on four key pillars to address youth mental health:

Addressing Prevention and Resilience Building

Providing youth with the supports and tools necessary to cope with stressors and challenges, helping them to thrive and reduce likelihood of engaging in unhealthy or damaging behaviors.

Increasing Awareness and Reducing Stigma

Promoting awareness of mental health resources and foundational mental health knowledge by expanding easy access points to education, helplines and state services.

Insuring Access and Affordability of Quality Treatment and Care

Addressing the barriers that prevent youth from accessing care including ensuring high quality care is available in the places, spaces, and timeframes that youth want and need, and that costs and lack of insurance coverage do not prevent access.

Training and Supporting Caregivers and Teachers

Examining not just the core issues around youth mental health, but also considering the impacts of youth mental health challenges, including the tie-in to academic recovery.

Expanding existing training and supports so that those caring for and interacting with youth daily have the tools and understanding to identify mental health needs and how to facilitate access to supports for youth

Improving Maternal and Infant Health

In addition, First Lady Tammy Murphy is leading an effort focused on maternal and infant health (MIH). This has been a significant area of focus in New Jersey throughout the Murphy Administration and this effort seeks to elevate and expand the conversation around maternal and infant health nationwide.

The four pillars of this effort are:

  • Centering Women’s Voices in MIH Policy – This area focuses on the importance of integrating the voices of mothers and women of color in the policymaking process, making sure they have a seat at the table before the table is even built.
  • Improving and Utilizing Maternal and Infant Health Data – Improving data systems by incorporating qualitative data on maternal health experiences, linking state data and increasing accessibility to data to improve accountability.
  • Expanding Access and Quality of Care – Identifying ways for states to ensure citizens have access to high quality maternal and infant care, including various MIH Medicaid policies that states can look to implement.
  • Elevating Innovative MIH Polices, Programs and Technologies – Identify and highlight innovative and novel approaches to MIH policy, including highlighting effective programs and examining the role of technology to improve MIH outcomes.

Centering Women’s Voices In Maternal And Infant Health

Centering women’s voices in the policy making process is key to addressing the MIH crisis. In the United States, MIH disparities are tied to systems and policies that have historically overlooked women’s voices, especially Black, Indigenous and Latina women. First Lady Murphy is committed to working with policymakers and experts in this space to address these disparities at the root, starting with elevating women’s voices and implementing solutions in partnership with those most disproportionately affected. By actively centering women’s voices, Governors and state leaders can work to reduce disparities in MIH outcomes and make their states safer places for pregnant women, babies, mothers and families.

The first roundtable of the Initiative was held in mid-October 2022. More information and a read out from the Convening is available here.

2022 Summer Meeting Panel on Youth Mental Health & Maternal and Infant Health

Insights – Youth Mental Health & Maternal and Infant Health

NGA has collated a variety of resources from stakeholders to assist Governors and their staff with strengthening youth mental health, and improving maternal and infant health. These resources leverage the expertise of NGA partners to provide insights to assist with delivering specific program areas and cross-program tools and best practices.


America’s School Mental Health Report Card

School mental health services play an important role in supporting youth and helping every child thrive. This report highlights what each state is doing to support school mental health services and provides policy recommendations and examples of policy pacesetters from across the country.

Learn more…


Funders for Adolescent Science Translation

Supporting Adolescent Health and Development

A brief highlighting the specific findings on youth behavioral health from two National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports: The Promise Of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity For All Youth and Promoting Positive Adolescent Health Behaviors And Outcomes: Thriving In The 21st Century.

Learn more…

Funders for Adolescent Science Translation

Elevance Health

Addressing Maternal Health Disparities: Doula Access in Medicaid

This report discusses how women using doulas in Medicaid have fewer inpatient hospital admissions during pregnancy, are more likely to attend their postnatal visit, experience lower odds of cesarean delivery, have lower odds of postpartum depression or anxiety, and have lower overall costs compared to women not using doulas.

Learn more…

Elevance Health

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Maternal Health

This report analyzes the latest trends in severe maternal morbidity by examining nearly 11 million births to women with either commercial insurance or Medicaid. Additionally it offers action items that can be taken to reduce SMM and improve maternal outcomes.

Learn more…

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association