Decriminalizing Mental Illness

Mental illness is not a crime. Yet far too many individuals receive their first diagnosis of mental illness in jail or prison — a result of stigma, discrimination, racism, as well as the persistent and systemic failure of the United States healthcare system to provide affordable, accessible, community-based mental health care.

Despite this complex web of factors, the Foundation believes an opportunity exists to make measurable progress to decriminalize mental illness by increasing access to mental health care in communities. 

Through our Annual Sozosei Summit to Decriminalize Mental Illness and our grantmaking, the Foundation is eager to engage in dialogue and work collaboratively to move the needle to decriminalize mental illness in the United States. Mental illness is not a crime.

Decriminalizing Mental Illness Grantmaking Guidelines

The Foundation recognizes the complex ecosystem within which efforts to decriminalize mental illness exists. Within that ecosystem we focus on upstream approaches to increase access to mental health care in communities across four strategic pillars: 

Access to Care 

Envisioning and building a United States where people with mental illness can access quality mental health care in communities—before, during, and after emergencies – through advocacy, litigation, enforcement of the Mental Health Parity Act, increasing the number of psychiatrists and effective implementation of 988.

Arts & Communications

Centering artists and art to increase access to mental health care, and building awareness and compassion by supporting work that gives a voice to lived experience through podcasts, journalism, documentaries, music, visual arts, and more.


Building, sharing, and promoting data collection to drive best practices and spark new ideas and course correction. 

Scaling What Works

Supporting innovative community-based programs that have the potential to become national models.




 Strategic Map to Decriminalize Mental Illness



For a full list of the Foundation's grantee partners in the Decriminalization of Mental Illness portfolio please visit our Grantee Partners database.