Behavioral Health Equity Collaborative

Communities of color and other marginalized populations have historically been unserved, underserved, and inappropriately served by California’s mental health care system. Despite recent investments and tremendous progress made to provide Californians with coverage for mental health services and substance use disorders, significant barriers to accessing care remain, including gaps in coverage, workforce adequacy (lack of diversity and shortages), affordability, and systemic discriminatory practices.

CPEHN launched the Behavioral Health Equity Collaborative (BHEC) in 2016 with a mission to advance mental health equity in California by bringing voices of diverse communities to state policymaking. The collaborative brings together state and local organizations that represent different communities of color—BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, youth, and LGBTQ+ communities—and mobilizes them to collectively advocate for increased investments in quality mental health services.

BHEC Engages in policy advocacy and mental health systems change through:

  • Policy research and development
  • Advocacy with state agencies and state legislature
  • Capacity building of BIPOC-led and serving community organizations

In 2019, BHEC developed and shepherded groundbreaking legislation, which would have improved cultural and linguistic competence in our county behavioral health system. The law would have required counties to set forward-looking goals in their mental health cultural competence plans and required the Department of Health Care Services to annually review and monitor their progress toward achieving these goals. Although the legislation was not passed, this continues to be a priority for the collaborative.

The collaborative conducted research on access and availability of mental health services for immigrants and undocumented immigrants in county behavioral health systems. The final report, Accessing Mental Health in the Shadows: How Immigrants in California Struggle to Get Needed Care, is an eye-opening blueprint for future policy change. Furthermore, the collaborative conducted a series of webinars on our behavioral health system with the goal of building the capacity of our partners and our broader mental health equity networks. CPEHN is the convener of BHEC. In this role, we coordinate the process of collaborative leadership from coordination and logistics to member engagement and communications.


Undocumented immigrants in California do not have mental health access


Of Native Americans have a serious mental illness, compared to a 4.2% average in California


Of Asian Californians have utilized mental health services in 2019, significantly lower than the 15% of whites