National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Skip to content National Council for Mental Wellbeing
Find a Provider
National Council for Mental Wellbeing logo
Meet the Medical Director Institute

2021 MDI Roster

In 2015, the National Council reached out to member organizations distinguished by outstanding leadership in shaping psychiatric and addictions service delivery to create a new entity: the National Council Medical Director Institute.

Drawing from the members’ diverse breadth of knowledge and experience, the Medical Director Institute advises National Council members on best clinical practices and develops policy and initiatives that serve member behavioral health organizations, their constituent clinicians, and the governmental agencies and payers that support them.

Led by Sara Coffey, D.O. and Joseph Parks, M.D., the group tackles complex issues that impact the health and well-being of all Americans. Its greatest value lies in their ability to identify solutions and create concrete calls to action to ensure that all Americans have access to a comprehensive, integrated continuum of care with the expectation of recovery.

Position Statements

Position statements are developed based on expert understanding of current accepted standards of care in behavioral health. MDI members are uniquely qualified to develop position statements based on their ongoing clinical and operational leadership roles in the field. They are all board-certified psychiatrists with multiple specialty certifications, including general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and emergency psychiatry. Members practice within organizations that include freestanding community mental health centers, addiction treatment centers, academic centers and large multihospital systems. They have specialized experience in health systems policy, practice, and financing (including commercial insurance, Medicaid and Medicare).

MDI members possess demonstrated skill in applying multiple sources of evidence that determine the generally accepted standard of care including peer-reviewed studies in academic journals, consensus guidelines from professional organizations, and guidelines and materials distributed by government agencies.

Position statements of the MDI are passed by a two-thirds majority of the voting membership and require that more than 50 percent of MDI members register a vote.

Wit Case

On February 28, 2019, Judge Joseph Spero of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued the findings of fact and conclusions of law in Wit v United Behavioral Health (UBH), a class action brought against the country’s largest behavioral health insurer. In deciding the case, the court enunciated eight general standards of care applicable to service intensity/patient placement selection for behavioral health care and applied those standards to the guidelines and practices of UBH operations. Members of the MDI reviewed and discussed the eight standards as enunciated by the court and have issued a statement of their position on the issue.

MDI Co-chair, Dr. Joe Parks, participated in a webinar titled “Game Changer: Implications of the Wit v. United Behavioral Health Ruling.” The purpose of the webinar was to learn more about current efforts to increase access to mental health care. The Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19 has issued six priorities for not only meeting current needs, but also emerging stronger and more resilient than we were before the pandemic. You can now access the webinar recording here (password: Qja7JvMd).

Access the position statement here.

For more information on our position statement, please visit our Standards of Care toolkit page.



Guidance on Handling the Increasing Prevalence of Drugs Adulterated or Laced with Fentanyl

Fentanyl and its analogs are currently the primary drivers of deaths in the opioid overdose crisis and responsible for the third wave of the opioid epidemic. In this paper, we offer principles and recommendations for remediating the impacts of the rising rates of drugs adulterated or laced with fentanyl.

Read the Report

Resilience-Oriented COVID-19 Navigation: Community Behavioral Health Reopening Considerations

After a rapid transition to essential and virtual services over a year ago, we must acknowledge and learn from the impressive performance of most behavioral healthcare provider organizations in adapting to meet the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. We must look to the future and recognize that organizations are faced with competing directions in reopening from the pandemic. Success at addressing these priorities will require deft, nimble, informed and transparent leadership for member organizations due to the increasing incidence of either new or exacerbation of existing psychiatric clients because of the pandemic. This document seeks to provide some guardrails in navigating these considerations.

Read the Report

Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System

A new report from the Committee on Psychiatry and the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, released by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, outlines the steps we must take now – before the launch of 9-8-8 – to ensure people in crisis receive the high-quality behavioral health services they need. The report, “Roadmap to the Ideal Crisis System,” provides a detailed vision for communities creating mental health crisis systems to guide this important work. This groundbreaking new report, distributed by the National Council, illustrates how vital it is to design and implement a mental health crisis system and demonstrates how a community’s response must be fully integrated with the treatment system.

Read the Executive Summary

Read the Expanded Executive Summary

Access the Full Roadmap

Addendum: Medication Matters: Causes and Solutions to Medication Non-Adherence During Times of Disaster

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing (National Council) published a report on best practices guide on causes for non-adherence in September 2018 (National Council, 2018). Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic and response has created additional challenges with medication adherence. This addendum provides a brief review of challenges with adherence and offers recommendations for improvement during disaster situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Access the Medication Matters Addendum

Optimizing the Psychiatric Workflow Within a Team-Based Care Framework

This paper describes a model of providing psychiatric care in the CBHC clinic setting that will improve patient outcomes and improve the work experiences of all members of the team providing care. It also clarifies the potential and often underutilized value to a CBHC of the fully deployed psychiatric provider. While the focus is on the psychiatric services, we acknowledge that this is just a piece of the overall team-based care approach within a CBHC.

Access the Team-based Care paper

Making the Case for High-functioning, Team-based Care in Community Behavioral Health Care Settings

Despite a wealth of data showing that team-based care leads to equal or better outcomes in efficiency, effectiveness, safety, cost savings and quality, the broad adoption of team-based care in CBHCs remains the exception rather than the rule. A high-functioning team-based model for the behavioral health clinic should be the standard for CBHCs. It is especially critical for health care leaders and administrators, including chief executive officers and board members who face the burden of responding to rising health care costs while meeting ever-present demands for quality, efficient and effective services.

Access the Team-based Care paper

Mass Violence CoverMass Violence in America: Causes, Impacts and Solutions

While there is a modest link between mental illness and violence, there is no basis for the public’s generalized fear of people with mental illness. Having a psychiatric diagnosis is neither necessary nor sufficient as a risk factor for committing an act of mass violence. For that reason this report has a broader range of considerations and recommendations beyond the subset of all mass violence with a link to mental illness.

Access the Mass Violence in America report

Access the Executive Summary

Access the collected one-pager fact sheets

psychiatric shortage report coverPsychiatric Shortage: Causes and Solutions

Today, more people are seeking mental health care than ever before, but there aren’t enough psychiatrists to meet the growing demand. Yet, few thought leaders acknowledge this “silent shortage.” We must step up before the silent shortage becomes a thunderous crisis that reverberates throughout the U.S. health care system leaving millions without hope of recovery.

Access the Psychiatric Shortage report

Access the press release

Cover of Medication Matters reportMedication Matters: Causes and Solutions to Medical Non-Adherence

There is a medication gap in the United States that takes a toll on the quality of life and health of millions of people. Advances in medications have produced life-changing benefits for those with mental and substance use disorders, but too many people are not taking these medications as prescribed and their emotional and physical health suffers.

Access the Medication Matters report

Access the press release

For media inquiries, contact Sophia Majlessi at: or 202.621.1631

Contact us for more information at: