Is Vulnerability a Weakness in Leadership? With Behavioral Health Expert Le Ondra Clark Harvey

by | Apr 30, 2024

Le Ondra Clark Harvey, a distinguished advocate for behavioral health, shares her impactful journey of championing mental health awareness and services. As a leader in advocating for better mental health policies and practices, Harvey brings to light the critical issues surrounding behavioral health, especially in disenfranchised communities.

In this episode of the Culture Leaders Podcast, Le Ondra Clark Harvey explores the nuances of behavioral health, distinguishing it from mental health, and the importance of comprehensive care. She reflects on the challenges faced by various communities in accessing adequate mental health services and the societal stigma associated with seeking help. Harvey discusses her role in shaping policies and influencing legislative changes to improve behavioral health services.

Join us as Le Ondra Clark Harvey delves into her experiences, sharing insights on the importance of inclusive healthcare policies, the transformative power of empathetic leadership, and her commitment to addressing the mental health crisis. She highlights the need for understanding and empathy, not only in healthcare but across all sectors of society.


“My why is why not. And there’s so much work that still has to be done.” – Le Ondra Clark Harvey

“We cannot continue to separate [behavioral health] from healthcare because it all goes together. It’s all about your health.” – Le Ondra Clark Harvey

“I had to sit back for a second and go, wow, that took like five or six years to get that implemented into law, but it was so important and so critical.” – On her advocacy work


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Dr. Jessica Kriegel: All right, let’s go. Le Ondra, what is your why?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Wow, my why is why not. And there’s so much work that still has to be done. No, no, I can’t stop.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Stop wait, that’s so good My why is what that’s my favorite answer yet of any time I’ve ever asked anyone that question. Sorry to interrupt you, but that was a mic drop moment. Okay, keep going

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: You are not sorry and it is totally okay. And they know I’m not gonna stop because there’s so much work that still needs to be done, especially when we think about behavioral health, lots of people that are suffering with mental health and substance use disorder conditions across the nation, impact of the pandemic, and then especially on disenfranchised populations, the poor, the racially diverse. I mean, these are the people that are really depending on services.

And so why not really means…Why not? You have to keep going. Somebody has to because there’s problems that are out there and they’re continuing to mount. And I feel that it’s really part of my mission and purpose to be in a place to enact some change. And so until that’s done, why not keep going?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Wow, I love that. I’m so excited already. Okay, so what is the difference, sorry, what is the difference between behavioral health and mental health?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Okay.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yes, great question. So mental health is really around specific disorders that impact your mental wellbeing. And substance use disorder is around substance use disorders, right? And the combination of those two and they impact one person the same way is behavioral health. Oftentimes people are like, okay, is it just behavioral health and mental health are synonymous or whatnot, but that’s really what that means. Behavioral health is the catchall term for mental health and substance use disorder services, and disorders, if that makes sense.

So it’s putting it all together, because I think what we’ve recognized in the last several years is that those things don’t exist distinctly within one person. The person that has a substance use disorder challenge probably also has mental health issues. So should we treat that person, like there’s aspects and parts of them that are so separate, or should we just treat the person as if all of those things are overlapping, combined, impacting one another, and we know better. We know that all those things do come together.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And they’re all confused for each other a lot of the time, right? I mean, so I’m in recovery. I have substance use disorders or disorder, whatever. And…

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yes, exactly.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So often you see these women come into the program and they’ve been diagnosed with a thousand different things, PTSD, bipolar, anxiety disorder, depression. Then they work the program and a year later, two years later, they don’t have any of those things. It was just untreated alcoholism. And so in your profession, you have a psychology background, right? I mean, how did that motivate you or influence your involvement in this field? And how does that affect all of this? Because I think even the professionals don’t.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm. Right.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Know a lot of the time.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, I think it’s taken a long time to get to the point where we have a term that recognizes everything that’s overlapping and intersecting in a person’s lives and impacting their functioning and their well-being, right? So even though the association I run is the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies, people still get confused. Legislators get confused. And so we have to keep talking about that and making it really, really clear.

How did I get here? Wow, I didn’t want to be here. My mom was a mental health counselor. She’s been one for over 30 years. And when I’m growing up, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, but I knew I did not want to have anything to do with mental health treatment or anything like that because I saw what my mom did. And while she…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I’m going to go to bed.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: I was really fulfilled by her work. She was also very tired, overwhelmed. And the people that she worked with, in my view as a kid and as a teenager, didn’t look like the people in my family. And so for me, I had a very specific kind of lens and a way that I understood counseling to be and for who it was appropriate for. And none of those folks looked like me. So I assumed like, this is just a luxury thing, right? That rich people do kick up their heels and kind of talk about their problems.

And in college, I started to take some psychology courses and really realize that everybody needs good mental well-being. Everyone can benefit from counseling and therapy. And I started to understand that there were people like me, even though my mom was a professional, that were hesitant or there was a lot of stigma about engaging because of preconceived notions. And so as I became more self-educated and aware, I thought, well, how can I now…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Use this to impact populations that are disenfranchised, are stigmatized and need the help too. So that’s really kind of where it started and changing my major in undergrad and my mom laughs about it because she’s like, see, you swore that you’d never be a mental health professional and now look at what you’re doing with your life, so.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Wow, so there’s a stigma about getting help in all communities, I think, right? Is it more so in black communities and disenfranchised communities than in privileged communities?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm, definitely.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, and I think a lot of that has to go with stigma towards Western healthcare in general and some of the atrocities that have been done specifically in communities of color and disenfranchised communities. That has carried over. Again, we’re talking about separating, like behavioral health, mental health, substance use disorder services are in some ways a stepchild of the healthcare industry, I feel like, and we cannot continue to separate those two things because it all goes together. It’s all about your health.

But for so long, there has been atrocities, the Tuskegee experiment, and so many others that have impacted how people in general just feel about healthcare and seeking it. And then when you talk about behavioral healthcare, there’s even more stigma because of all of the wrong that’s happened. So we’ve had these cultures that have passed down these messages around distrust of the healthcare system, and we really see that play out with behavioral health. However…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: I would say with the pandemic, it has been really a game changer. So many people started to recognize their own needs or developed mental health and substance use disorder problems as a result of being shut in basically. Anxiety levels, depression, teen suicide, all of the things we saw led to people being more willing to talk about it because the impact was closer to them.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: So that’s been a good silver lining, but then that begs the question, do we have what we need to treat people? Right? And so a lot of my advocacy work is around making sure that we have the workforce, that we’ve built the pipeline, that legislators and policymakers know that this is important, and that they’re willing to fund it to all of the services that people need.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So most of the people that listen to this are in business. And I think since COVID, the business community has started talking a lot more about mental health awareness and creating a culture of awareness where people can talk about it. It’s also very unsafe to actually talk about mental health issues at work because.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Thank you.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Of so much confusion that people have about what that means and whether you can be trusted and if you’re now eligible for a promotion or not, based on my perception of what you just said about your mental health. So what have you seen that works in work forces, in work communities to promote awareness about a culture of talking about behavioral health and what is actually counterintuitive or counterproductive rather, what do you do as a business person?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Sure.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: No, I think that’s a great question. It’s an important lens to look from, right? And the work that I do is really advocating for behavioral health clinics across the state, but they are businesses too, right? And so they have people even on their own staff that are suffering. And you would hope that there would be more openness within those settings, and I believe there is, to talking about conditions and whatnot, but that’s even amplified more. And I think that’s what you’re illustrating with business, with the business sector. And so-

I think traditionally businesses have provided what they had to legally, right? But until you really, and I think what you’re getting at is change the culture and how people feel within it, then they’re going to continue to not utilize the resources because there’s still stigma around it. So I think I’ve seen businesses do things like really promoting mental wellbeing and really taking the emphasis off of…mental health or mental disorders or substance use disorders.

Just if we think about wellbeing and the importance of wellbeing and how that allows everyone to thrive and be successful, not just personally but professionally, and it’s a positive thing, the stigma is taken off of it. I think also as leaders, you have to lead first, lead by example. So being vulnerable and open and talking about the issues, providing forums to discuss them in a way that doesn’t stigmatize people, have identified as having a behavioral health condition, but just, hey, this is a part of what we do. This is a part of what we talk about. This is a part of wellness. That’s a really different take than saying, oh, if you have an issue, here’s where you can go and here are resources. And people fearing that they’re gonna be pigeonholed or retaliated against as a result.

So really just talking about the importance of culture and including mental wellbeing. And that can look a lot of different ways. I think people are so stuck on like, oh, it means going to a therapist or taking medication. That’s not the case all the time. It might mean taking some more PTO when you’re just not feeling well, just knowing your resources and options if it extends beyond that as well. So as leaders in business, I think there’s a responsibility to demonstrate wellness and wellbeing and then also promote that throughout the culture of the organization as well.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So how have your experiences, you’ve had all these different consulting roles within the California legislature, how do those experiences shape your views on what actually works and what doesn’t work on healthcare policy? Where are you at now with that?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, I mean, I still work with the legislature in terms of being a professional advocate and a registered lobbyist there. When I worked in the building, it was a great opportunity to learn about legislation, the process, the politics, right? What works, what doesn’t, how to convey technically complex material and information and really bite size, you know, very quick digestible bullet points for policymakers and the public so that people can really understand the impact of laws. And I think the most important part is the relationships that I was able to build, the leveraging of those relationships to get good work done and to design really good policy. And then also understanding that things take time. So just yesterday, I celebrated my sixth anniversary at the organization that I lead. And yesterday, the governor also came out with his budget preview for the year.

And within the budget on page 21 on the bottom, was a provision for a bill that we’ve been pushing since 2018 when I joined this organization after leaving the legislature as a staff there. And I had to sit back for a second and go, wow, that took like five or six years to get that implemented into law, but it was so important and so critical. So one of the lessons I learned while working in the Capitol was patience and the importance of good relationships because a lot of the people that help and get that legislation into the budget were people that I had met before, right? People that I had worked with, people that had seen the work that I had done when I was there. And so being able to really build a community of support, leverage relationships and really stick with it after years. Cause I’ll tell you, year three, I was like, why are we doing this again? Is it good? They really don’t like it, right?

Like maybe we need a different approach and being able to continue be consistent, right? And mission-driven in that has been really amazing. And the bill is basically requiring teachers and others on school campuses to take a mental health training so that they can help youth. And halfway into this process, year three, was 2020. The pandemic hit. And then we had all of these, you know, mental health conditions, suicide rates spiking, and it just…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Was more fuel because I thought we have to be able to pass this now. Like it was bad before, it’s getting worse before our eyes. And as kids go back to school and parents go back to work, we need to make sure that lay persons, teachers and others on the campus, the bus driver, the crossing guard, know how to identify, you know, the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis. And so seeing that yesterday being put in the budget was just an amazing moment for our organization.

But also I think, you know, it’s an illustration of, you know, what you’re asking about. Like, what were the things that I took from the legislature and how am I implementing them? And so it was a good reminder, kind of a full circle moment, I think.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Well, I think you also described an experience that is really common. You’re a CEO of an organization, you’re driving results, you’re trying to push this team to stay motivated. Also when the results don’t, you’re working on something long-term and sometimes people need positive reinforcement. They need all these wins along the way to feel like we’re making progress and you don’t always get those. So how do you keep people motivated in those times when you’re maybe in a…

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Right. Yeah, exactly.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: I’m going to go to bed.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Previce rather than the peak of having won something

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, well, I have a really incredible team. I mean, it’s never me, it’s our team doing it all. And so for me as a leader, I really look at the things that I said that I liked about all my bosses that I had to this point and the things that I said I didn’t like. And I kept the list. Like, I love that this boss does this for me. This person is really invested in my professional development, right? This person did this horrible thing. I’ll never do that. We always have those moments where we’re like, oh, never be like that. But are we looking at what we’ll also want to be like, right?

List of things that I loved about all of my bosses and supervisors and all of these things that I just, I would never do. Right. And then when I had the opportunity, I was ready to implement, to try out, to test. And so I have this great team of folks, very supportive. And one of the things that I’ve done a lot is model vulnerability so that when people are feeling like it’s not working, I’m frustrated, I’m in that crevice as you called it, there’s an opportunity to say, okay, look, this happens. This is how I dealt with it. Or you’ve seen me deal with it, you know, in the past…so that it’s no, there’s never anyone that’s feeling like they don’t have the support, the help, or they can’t come to me or anyone else on the team to get what they need to keep going and get that motivation. And because we’ve modeled this culture of inclusion and wellbeing, people are very open about, hey, I’m anxious today, or I’m depressed, or I need this time off, or I just, I need a break. And they are not afraid that I’m gonna say, oh, well that report is due, because I know that healthy people that feel good about the work are gonna do better work.

I don’t want somebody who’s kind of off or doing half work to, you know, you know, being participating in the team in that way. So I really think that those crevice moments are reduced. They’re not huge crevices anymore. They’re just little blips when people feel comfortable and they can trust that their leadership understands and they see their leadership demonstrating that I’m having a bad day too. I’m very honest about like, oh my God, I barely got my kids to school on time. I’m really stressed about this.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Thank you.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: You know, I’ve got people coming over to my house, all the things in life, and I talk about that with my staff often, and it opens a door for them to share, and to be honest too, about what’s going on in their lives.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So what are the fundamental truths about behavioral health that you think if everyone had a basic understanding of these things, then maybe we would all be more empathetic towards each other?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

It happens to everybody. I think one of the things that I really appreciate about advocating for behavioral health is that it’s not a partisan issue. Everybody has a cousin, aunt, somebody, themselves who’s experienced something, whether it was something temporary or something that’s biologically impacting them to where they need medication or they just need long-term treatment. We’ve all seen it and experienced it. And so I think folks need to learn to give themselves some more grace and that there are a lot more commonalities and things that are keeping people apart…world and in this space of behavioral health.

And just really as advocates and as professionals, as leaders in businesses, starting to really incorporate wellness and well-being into the culture, into the conversation from day one when you’re onboarding someone in your handbook. It should just be part of your policies and procedures, not just on that piece of paper, but how you design the work you do, how you design your mission and goals and your strategy as well.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So let’s zoom out a little bit because I was just talking about this morning. My best friend is having a depressive episode right now. And we were talking about a documentary that we saw on Gaia. They were talking about schizophrenia and the way different cultures treat schizophrenic patients. And our tendency in America here is to put people in a room to isolate, right? Or to separate.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Okay.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: In Norway, you have programs that are actually around funding roommates for these patients so that they have someone to be with, right? And then in some Aboriginal cultures, and I don’t remember where exactly, there are the culture is that when someone starts hearing voices and shouting at the sky, the whole community will come around that person and start shouting at the sky with them. And…

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Great.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: It’s not about isolation, it’s about coming together in community. But as you said, with COVID and isolating as a health mandate, right? And also workplaces are fragmented. Now people are working from home and they’re more isolated. It’s almost like it’s causing more behavioral health issues, but it’s also causing more suffering of the preexisting behavioral health issues. So at a policy level, what is the next frontier?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Like, what are you focused on? You’ve got the training for the teachers at school. Thank you. Very excited about that. What’s next? You know?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Hahaha. Gosh, what’s not next? Everything, right? So, you know, one of the big things and I was actually talking to someone about this morning was, um, focusing on, you know, technology and emerging technologies and innovation and how that’s before us and what to do. So one of the things that happened in the pandemic is all of a sudden we got 5 million extra apps we can get on our phone around, you know, therapy and all kinds of different things, right? Um, and while that’s good because, bless you, while that’s good, because it’s normalizing.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Excuse me.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Behavioral health and accessing help. There’s also for me as an advocate and as a psychologist, I was like, but how do you know it’s good, right? And you also want people to not feel like that app is going to take the place of maybe in-person or more advanced treatment that they need. So one of the things that’s on the frontier and is really important to me personally is figuring out how to figure out what’s good treatment, right, and within the AI space as well, right? Because we have…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: A lot of companies that are now bringing in AI and lots of different products to help out and there’s some amazing things that I’ve seen and read about and heard about. And we have some business associates at our association that are doing some really great work. But how do you like who, who sets the gold standard, right? And who has the oversight? At the end of the day, these are serious conditions that people are dealing with. And you want someone to know that when they open their, you know, cell phone and click on an app that is really approved or credited something, right?

That that’s healthy and okay and appropriate. And so that’s really something I’ve been interested in. In addition to looking at some of the emerging treatments like psychedelics and other things we’re seeing approved slowly in different states, California is going to have to grapple with this very quickly.

And years ago, I helped write the law to make cannabis legal here in California with legislators. And so I saw the pushback. I saw the both sides of it, the fear and all of that. And I do believe that it’s going to be a similar process with psychedelics and other substances to be utilized in treating mental health and substance use disorder conditions. The other thing I think that is important and our state is actually looking at right now is utilizing prescription therapeutics, digital therapeutics, so programs to incentivize folks who are experiencing a mental health crisis or substance use disorder to keep with their treatment.

And the incentives are like paying a person. You made it this many weeks. You got a badge on your app and there’s payment. There’s real tangible things to help people continue in their treatment and to be successful. So you think AI and the usage of technology, incentive based programs for health in general and obviously behavioral health in my interest are all the things that are there on the horizon and happening in different ways. And now we have to figure out how to manage that and how to make sure that it’s good and it’s quality if that makes sense.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm, yeah. I mean, it feels like such a challenging issue because everyone is responsible for their own behavioral health, right? And yet you see people that you wanna help. I have a sponsor right now who believes that the government is trying to implant things in her through her McDonald’s coffee.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yes. Right, exactly.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: And so she switched to Burger King. Not to make light of it, but I mean, I’ve laughed at it with her. And she, in moments of lucidity, understands that is her disease. And then in other moments, she’s just totally convinced of it. So I wanna help her. And yet there’s very little that I have the power to do other than offering some comforting words and pieces of advice, which sometimes she’s in the mood for and sometimes she’s not.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Hahaha

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Right.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Hehehe

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: That’s one of the greatest challenges is all of the people who are heartbroken by, it is a spiral. Once you’re in some kind of depressive episode, let’s say, it’s really hard to pull yourself out of it. So how do we help the people in our communities? How do we help the people, our neighbors, our family members, what is it that we can do?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Right.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, definitely.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: So I love that you asked that question because this is where it happens. There’s not enough behavioral health professionals out there. I’m a psychologist. I had to go to school a really long time. We don’t have time to educate lots and lots of people. Like the crisis is before us right now. And so that’s why, like the bill that was just put into the governor’s budget around training for teachers. There’s also training for lay persons. That’s very, very important. Because

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Like you said, you need to be able and equipped to help a friend, a neighbor. So I feel like clergy members, parents, community members need to be able to access just like very simple basic training and information so that they recognize when something is off and they’re able to help youth needed as well. When we think about a lot of the unfortunate suicides that we’ve seen in the last several years of teenagers and youth.

After that happens, we always hear, or even school shootings, you know, we always hear, well, it was on their social media, or they wrote this letter, or they told me at lunch, or, you know, there’s information. So, you know, a youth is going to go to a youth first before they go to an adult, right, in any setting, just because that’s who they relate to and have more interaction with. So if we can equip even youth and peers with information to be able to help their peers, if we can equip…the leaders in our community that are sometimes more trusted than healthcare professionals like clergy and others who are leaders, then that’s really spreading awareness in a way that it’s common. People tend to trust that a lot more.

And there’s tools at their disposal and there’s kind of a, okay, I can go to my pastor, I can go to a friend, I can go to people that understand and can give me the tools and the resources that are necessary. And I think in order to do that, there has to be training of folks at the community level. Our organization is a state arm of the National Council for Mental Welding and they have trademarked Mental Health First Aid, which has been a really great training that we have done some work with in Sacramento. We worked with a community organization.

All my staff trained on it and I didn’t want the training to just happen in our office. We went and collaborated with the Neighborhood Wellness Foundation and organization here in Sacramento and we sat there with residents and we took it with them. And it was such an amazing experience because we could hear the questions that lay persons were asking the things that they needed in order to really use the training with their neighbors, with people that they were in school with. And it’s those types of experiences that will really help people normalize, you know, mental health and crises and understand how to respond.

There’s also one more thing I’d share is that the 988 call centers, many of our members run the crisis call centers across the state. And you can just pick up the phone now, instead of calling 911, you know, when you call 988, you’re going to be paired with a professional that is ready to answer that call that has some type of training in like suicide prevention or addressing the crisis, and they have resources to send you to in your community. So I really think that the mental health first aid training, the 988 crisis line and other crisis and hotlines are gonna be really helpful for lay persons.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So when someone calls a crisis health line and they say, I’m in crisis, what does that person do? Do they talk them through it? Do they point them to other resources? What is the solution on the other end of the line?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, all of the above. So the crisis counselors are prepared to provide the resources that are needed, whether that’s, you know what, you actually may need to go to an emergency room or we’re calling someone to come to your house right now and not necessarily the police because there is a lot of stigma and upset and concern around the police answering mental health crises, right? So that’s something that’s a big debate that’s happening now in the community, but being able to call a line and get all of your options and…not have it be a 911 operator that’s there really for other types of emergencies is a big advancement in our state, in the nation.

So every state has 988 dedicated funding now. And so watching our members run those call centers has been amazing. And they’re skilled and well equipped. And actually, there’s a lot of volunteers that work at the call centers, they get trained because they care. And they spend time at the call centers answering calls. So I think it’s important. I think it’s an important balance as well, because having somebody who’s a peer having someone that you feel is like you in a situation, sometimes it’s a lot more impactful than having the psychologist or the psychiatrist or the medical doctor intervene, right? It’s really like, hey, this happened to me. I’m okay, let’s talk through this. Exactly, right? This is what I did.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I’m the same. Yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Yeah, I answer the A.A. hotline on Saturday mornings from eight to 12. I don’t have to go anywhere, thank goodness. It just comes to my phone. But they said in my training, what you can do is talk about your experience and make them feel like they’re not alone. Don’t tell them what to do. Just say, well, this is what it was like for me. And it does work every time. You say, well, here’s what it felt like for me and what I did. And they say, great, where do I go? I want some of that. Okay, so what have you seen that’s groundbreaking

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Nice.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yes.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Right.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm. Right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: I mean, I think a lot of people feel all this, a lot of the solutions we’ve talked about today are awareness and education, you know, and I think business leaders are getting at the end of their rope on the awareness and education talk. They’re like, so then what? And you see some interesting solutions like subscriptions to, right? And now you have your entire workforce meditating and that advances your wellbeing in certain ways. But what other things have you seen that are

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: changing the nature of how we treat or react to behavioral health issues.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: I think all of those things are happening right now, but I think one of the most important things, and I’ll just take it back to a policy level, is the funding for those things. Because you can have all these interventions and all of these things. Some of them are pretty simple. Some of them are not like, it’s common sense, right? But if you don’t have the funding and the buy-in, it doesn’t matter. And so one of the changes I’ve seen in the political realm is that we have a governor right now that cares about…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm-hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Mental health, he cares about substance use disorder and other issues. And so it has been really amazing for our community to have part of his policy priorities and his funding priorities be around mental health and substance use disorder. I’ve never seen that before, right? It’s always been an issue that impacts us all. It’s nonpartisan or bipartisan in the sense that everybody is impacted. But to have our state leaders say, this part of my budget is going to behavioral health.

Now, is it enough? Never. But the fact that we’re even, he’s talking about it, so we’re talking about it is important. And so yes, there’s controversy around that, around care court, around Proposition One, around all of the changes to our state labor right now. Yes, there’s lots of conversations and controversy, but at least we’re talking about it. And there’s articles and newspapers about it, and it’s interesting.

There was a time when behavioral health advocates would call up newspapers or contact them and it’s like, okay, that’s nice, nobody cares. Now it’s like, oh really? Yeah, this many people in your county are impacted and not getting services, there’s this many teen suicides. And so, a lot of it isn’t so innovative. Yes, there’s AI and psychedelics and a lot of the things kind of on the horizon or here already. And then there’s really simple things, like you volunteering, right? And answering that phone and being there for somebody. But somebody had to fund that hotline.

There has to be resources in order for those things to happen. So I think for me, one of the best and innovative things that’s happening right now is having leaders that are willing to talk about it. And it goes back to the beginning of our conversation with having people that are able to, in the business sector, bosses, CEOs, whoever, model that well-being is important. And so the more that happens…at the policy level, making level, the more that happens at the business leadership level, the more it’s going to happen at the workforce level. The other thing when I think about workforce is there’s a lot of focus on like what to do because the pipeline is just.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: It’s just not happening fast enough, right? And so what can we do to have more of an integrated approach to care? So our state in the last couple of years approved having reimbursement for peer providers. People that have been through the situation, people that are past users are in recovery, talking to others, oh, and by the way, this isn’t volunteerism, they’re getting paid. They’re getting paid as if a licensed professional is getting paid. So that to me isn’t super innovative, it’s common sense, but thank God we’re doing it.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: And so being able to have peers influence and be a part of the care team is important. So those types of more integrated delivery care systems I think are super, super important. And as you talked about the model in Norway, there’s a lot of advances and a lot of amazing models in other European countries where people, when they go to the ER, for a behavioral health crisis, like truly you’re in crisis at that point, they are treated by people that understand, they have peers, they have people in recovery in a completely different section of the hospital that is not like a hospital or a jail. It’s set up where it’s warm and friendly and it’s a home-like experience. That’s a lot different. That to me is simple but innovative and really important.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: So what advice would you give to someone who’s interested in making an impact in mental health advocacy or even to yourself, your younger you who was like, I’m staying away from that. Ha ha ha.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, start with your heart because that’s really, I mean, I don’t know many people that go into the behavioral health field because they think, oh my gosh, I’m gonna be this like high paid person and I’m gonna have this, you know, posh life. I mean, it really has to be hard work. And that’s why you see so many people that are survivors in recovery that are here or have family members. And the truth is we’re all touched by it, right? But how do you really use that heart experience and make that your grounding?

Because if not, you’re going to burn out. And we know the burnout rate for any health professional is high, but particularly for behavioral health professions. When I worked at UCLA and at USC and their children’s hospitals, I saw it with my colleagues. I saw it with the families that came in. The burnout rate is so, so high. There’s trauma, trauma. And so if you’re gonna do it, you have to believe in it. You have to believe that there is hope and there can be change.

And it’s that grounding that allows you when you have those, you know, crevice moments to be able to say, but this is why I’m here. This is why I’m doing this work. And so if you don’t have that, then you’re probably gonna fall flat and leave and find a different career. And I know it sounds, you know, a little corny, but it’s true, it’s hard work. And so you have to have the mission and the drive and the ambition to do it. Otherwise, it’s not gonna sustain.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Well, thank you so much. This has been, I just love the work that you’re doing and I love you. And I think that you are, I mean, an inspiration. My last question is my favorite question, which is what is something that you don’t get asked about that you wish you were asked more often?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: I’m trying.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Okay.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Um…Well, you know, people in my experience spend a lot of time interviewing and talking to people about their accomplishments or things that they’ve done well and lauding them for that, or they’re very curious about their journey. How’d you get there? How’d you get to the destination, right? But people don’t often ask, what have you or what are you struggling with? Like that’s just not like a really like, you know, fun question to ask.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Mmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: But I think it’s something that really can provide a lot of insight into journey, right? And really allow people to connect. And so for me being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 2020, the pandemic, what a great year. It really rocked my world, I’ll be honest, for about five minutes before my kind of like, be strong, make meaning of it, you know, fight, instinct jumped in. And that’s very typical of me. And so I went with it, my instinct kicked into gear, and it really was a…

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Hmm.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: A credible coping mechanism for me, but it was easier to be open about the fight. It was way less easy to be open about the emotional struggle. And I think as an African-American woman, I realized that this was illustrative of so much in my life. There was this parallel that I was seeing. So I’ve utilized transparency about the struggles behind the scenes to really help people kind of see past where they’re at, sorry, give me a moment, where they’re at in their life and the things that they’re struggling with.

And I think that’s really important. I use transparency and how I talk to my staff, how I dealt with this. I told my staff and they were kind of like, oh, what’s going to happen? We’re worried. And it’s like, no, we’re going to work through it. I’m going to show you that we can get through this. But I really had to be intentional about saying, I have some hard moments. It’s not all perfect. I make mistakes. And really, I think filling out that picture that so often we as leaders train ourselves into being as close to perfect of a model as we can. And so redefining what that perfection looks like. And perfection means imperfection is a big part of that too and being super transparent about that. And it allows people to start opening up and sharing. And so, you know, changing that picture was really huge for me.

And I really think that as leaders, we have to learn how to embrace that in a way that’s empowering for other people, not because we want sympathy or not because we want to really highlight our own struggle, but because we want people to see how we grow from that, and to help them in their own journeys as well. So my secret weapon to success is now being much more transparent, not just about the journey and the expected things in terms of working hard and all of that, but also the moments where I feel like maybe I failed or where I’m struggling. And that has been much more impactful to anyone that I’ve shared my story with, I think.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Well, thank you. That’s beautiful. I have learned so much from you in following you and seeing you throughout my life. You are just an inspiration. I’m so grateful that you came and shared with us today about your journey, the good and the bad.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Likewise, my friend.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Thank you so much. Yes, definitely.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Thank you. Oh, wait, I have one more question. Go back. And if people want to learn more about you or how they can support what you’re working on, where can they go?

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Yeah, the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. We have a website, CBHA, they call us for sure. Please go there. There’s resources there. You’ll learn about the organization and the work that’s happening. And we’d love to have a meeting and talk to you about everything that our members do and how we support them and how we advocate for policy change as well.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel: Wonderful. Thank you, Leandra.

Le Ondra Clark Harvey: Thank you

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