Who is Who and What Do They Do?!

Below you can find a brief description of the agencies and positions that create, oversee, and monitor mental health policy in California at the state and local level. Much of this is taken directly from their websites, and we urge you to visit their sites directly for additional information.

State Level

The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA)


The mission of CalMHSA is to provide member counties a flexible, efficient, and effective administrative/fiscal structure focused on collaborative partnerships and pooling efforts in: Development and implementation of common strategies and programs, Fiscal integrity, protections, and management of collective risk, Accountability at state, regional, and local levels.

California Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA)


CBHDA is dedicated to the accessibility of quality cost-effective mental health care for the people of California. Principal goals are to advocate for quality mental health systems of care, which are culturally competent, consumer- guided, family-sensitive, and community-based.

California Mental Health Planning Council (CMHPC)


The California Mental Health Planning Council is mandated by federal and state statute to advocate for children with serious emotional disturbances and adults and older adults with serious mental illness, to provide oversight and accountability for the public mental health system, and to advise the Administration and the Legislature on priority issues and participate in statewide planning.

Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC)


The MHSOAC provides the vision and leadership, in collaboration with clients, their family members and underserved communities, to ensure an enhanced continuum of care for individuals at risk for and living with serious mental illness and their families by holding public systems accountable and by providing oversight, eliminating disparities, promoting mental wellness, supporting recovery and resiliency resulting in positive outcomes in California’s community based mental health system.


Mental Health Board/Commissions

The local MHB/C is a citizen board mandated by State law. Members are appointed to the Board by the local county governing body (referred to in this document as the Board of Supervisors (BOS). MHB/Cs are advisory to both the BOS and the local mental health director as to any aspect of the local mental health program. MHB/Cs:

  • Oversee and monitor the local mental health system
  • Advocate for individuals with serious mental illness
  • Provide advice to the BOS and the local mental health director

The ultimate goal of MHB/Cs is to ensure the development of improved services, access to services and the best mental health program possible.

County boards and commissions are designed to encourage citizen involvement, expertise and advice to assist local governing bodies in serving the community. They are the community’s “voice” in government and serve as a communication channel between government and local citizens. Local governing bodies and local programs rely on them to advise them on a wide range of issues of interest to their constituencies and to assure that they are responsive to community needs. Effective citizen boards can provide insights and energy essential for creating better programs and services. They help make important decisions, bring expertise and resources needed to address problems and provide a valuable link to public and private groups and organizations as well as local government.

County MHSA Decision Makers and Advocacy Partners

MHSA Coordinators

MHSA Coordinators are very specialized according to their county, so each job looks different to meet the county needs. They are responsible for all steps of plan development and implementation at the county level. It is their job to work with community organizations, the county, and to engage their local stakeholders in an inclusive and representative planning process. They are the county point-person for all things MHSA, and a good person to know as an advocate at the county level.

Sometimes the MHSA Coordinator will have a TAY Coordinator who is responsible for engaging the TAY community and including them in the stakeholder process. If your county has one this is a great way to get involved in community planning and implementation!

Ethnic Service Managers (ESM)

The Ethnic Services Manager is responsible for ensuring that counties meet cultural and linguistic competence standards in the delivery of community based mental health services. They function as the liaison between the county and the key cultural groups in their communities. ESMs also often work with the TAY in their community to make sure that they are engaged in the community planning and implementation process. TAY is sometimes considered a “youth culture” and so falls into the category of “cultural competence.”