From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working to improve behavioral healthcare for all Idahoans

May 6, 2022
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

One of the many hats I wear as director of the Department of Health and Welfare is co-chair of the Idaho Behavioral Health Council. The council was established by all three branches of government via a proclamation from the Idaho Supreme Court, a concurrent resolution from the Legislature, and by Gov. Brad Little’s executive order on July 29, 2020, to improve the system of care for Idahoans with behavioral health needs. I co-chair the council with Sara Omundson, administrative director of courts.

The council is unique because it includes members from all three branches of Idaho’s government: executive, judicial, and legislative. It also includes local government and members of the public. Thirteen members have been working since August 2020 with local government, service providers, community partners, and people who use behavioral health services and their families to identify a list of recommendations that will move us all a step closer to making behavioral healthcare more consistently available to all Idahoans.

Behavioral health issues affect many aspects of life in Idaho, including Idaho’s corrections system, judicial system, hospitals, schools, and communities.

It is the council’s vision that adults, children, and their families who live with mental illness and addiction receive the behavioral healthcare services they need, when they need them. Council members believe if this vision is realized, then people in Idaho will have a better quality of life and a lowered risk of involvement with the criminal justice system. It will make Idaho communities healthier and safer.

There’s a lot of work to do to fulfill that vision, but we now have a solid plan. The council worked with community partners to develop and implement a three-year strategic action plan.

The plan addresses the challenges that individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders face in Idaho. It also includes an inventory of current resources, a plan to leverage state and national best practices, and a focus on a consumer-driven approach to design a  cost-efficient, organized system that maximizes resources to care for people with behavioral health conditions in Idaho.

The plan contains 34 recommendations that address infrastructure, promotion, prevention, engagement of people with behavioral health disorders, treatment, and recovery. The council selected nine of the recommendations as priorities for three years, and three have already been implemented.

The council’s next meeting will be at 11 a.m. July 8. For more information about the council, visit

I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend.

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