Pain in the nation: Policy ideas to save lives

September 11, 2018 Benjamin Miller, Psy.D

Well Being Trust’s beginnings are humble ones. When we first opened our doors in January 2017—thanks to a generous gift from Providence St. Joseph Health—we sought to be a different kind of philanthropic foundation, one that was fully engaged in policies and practices that advance the mental, social, and spiritual health of the nation.

A focus on mental health and substance misuse

We knew that our challenge would require us to address a culture of fragmentation that had historically separated mental health from medical. We have taken a broad approach to ensure our investments and resources not only respond to the latest crisis but are helping create the environment where everyone can achieve their goals—the community conditions for optimal well-being.   

This approach requires us to address a myriad of vital conditions, and—in just one investment example—Well Being Trust engaged several strategic partners through Well Being Legacy to begin to create a larger network for change. Recognizing that trying to tackle all the policies that support and hinder well-being is not possible for one organization, we carefully focus on mental health and substance misuse while working closely with partners who will pursue policy in other areas to create a cohesive community-focused framework for well-being.

We need a national resilience strategy

Through partnership with Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we released Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy, which presented 60 evidence-based policy and advocacy strategies to help decrease deaths due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide and called for a national resilience strategy. This report has evolved into an interactive web-based experience that features profiles of programs at work and offers policy briefs for consideration.

Finding solutions for at-risk children in Oregon

Focused on helping youth in their communities in Oregon, we funded the Oregon Governor’s Children and Youth with Special Health Needs Workgroup to provide actionable policy and legislative solutions for the state’s most vulnerable children—those in foster care or at risk of going into foster care and who struggle with mental health issues and/or intellectual development disabilities. A total of 42 public/private stakeholder organizations, with near unanimity, provided recommendations, which are being fleshed out into policy option packages and legislative concepts by the governor’s office.

Why We Rise: A California campaign to reduce stigma

In early 2018, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health approached Well Being Trust to develop an awareness campaign focused on mental health and well-being. Given WBT’s expertise in connecting across channels with teens, tweens, and millennials and helping reduce stigma associated with mental health, we helped launch the campaign—Why We Rise—in May 2018. It quickly became a call to action, asking people to join a movement to break through barriers and defy old assumptions about mental health care.

Help for the hurting

And we believe our work is timely. The nation is hurting, and we operate at a time where our investments, leadership, and network can help. By emphasizing policy, practice change, community and social engagement, and an ongoing need to measure what works and what doesn’t, Well Being Trust can begin to set goals, each accompanied by a clear articulation of the improvement we hope to achieve.

Together, we can begin to change the health and well-being of the nation. 


Learn how Providence St. Joseph Health is advancing the future of mental health. Learn more about Well Being Trust.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

About the Author

Benjamin Miller, Psy.D

Dr. Benjamin F. Miller has worked to redefine the national policy landscape for mental health and health care. He is the chief strategy officer for Well Being Trust, and comes to this position from the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where he was the founding director of the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center. Ben has been a principal investigator on many grants, and worked closely with states on creating more integrated approaches to care within Medicaid. He has written and published on enhancing the evidentiary support for integrated care models and increasing the training and education of mental health providers.

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