How Elected Officials Affect Mental Health Care in Your Community

Programs and services important to you and your family are dependent on decisions made by elected officials. Below, learn how different positions impact mental health services and supports available in your community.

Local Officials (county commissioners, mayors, council members, etc.) may fund and/or set policy for:

  • Community-based mental health services and supports (such as mobile crisis services, Supported Housing, Supported Employment, peer supports, ACT and CIT teams)

Local officials’ terms vary depending on the municipality or county, and the position. Find out more from your state’s Board of Elections, which you can find here.

Elected District Attorneys and Judges affect:

  • Criminal justice system responses to people with mental illness (such as treatment courts and jail diversion programs

Elected district attorneys and judges’ terms vary depending on the municipality, county or state. Find out more from your state’s Board of Elections, which you can find here

Elected Insurance Commissioners affect:

  • State enforcement of health insurance parity and patient protection laws

Only some insurance commissioners are elected. Find out more about your state’s insurance commissioner here

State Legislators and Governors fund and/or set policy for a wide range of issues, including:

  • State Medicaid plan benefits and eligibility
  • Psychiatric hospitals and longer-term care
  • Community-based mental health services and supports (such as FEP programs, crisis services and housing)
  • Insurance parity and patient protections

Governors serve 2-4 year terms, which vary by state. Learn more about governors’ terms here

State legislators serve 2-4 year terms, which vary by state. Learn more about state legislator terms here

Members of Congress fund and/or set policy for a wide range of issues, including:

  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Veterans’ mental health care
  • Housing for people with serious mental illness
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research
  • Health insurance coverage of mental illness
  • Community Mental Health Block Grant
  • Criminal justice/mental health initiatives

Senators are elected every six years. Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years.


Learn more about key policy issues related to mental health services and supports and how to talk to candidates about these issues here.