Jeffrey Lieberman M.D



Mental Health Care Systems Panel | Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, March 28, 2014

Legislation and Policy

Dr. Lieberman has contributed to health care policy and Federal legislation to improve access and quality of mental health care while reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act Final Rule: The Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (MHPA) provided that large group health plans cannot impose annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits that are less favorable than any such limits imposed on medical/surgical benefits. The Final Rules Under the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 further provided that health insurance providers must provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits that are comparable to medical and surgical benefits.  These final regulations went into effect on January 13, 2014.

Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act in The 21st Century Cures Act:  Signed into law in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, the bipartisan mental health reform legislation seeks to increase choice and access for patients and providers, streamline the development and delivery of drugs and medical devices, accelerate research into serious illnesses, address the opioid crisis, and improve mental health services. The Cures Act expands funding for brain research, drug abuse, and mental health, and includes language from the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, promoting de-escalation training and diverting people with mental illness to treatment instead of incarceration.

Watch: Dr. Lieberman testifies before the House Subcommittee on Health on June 16, 2015: “Examining H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”
“Examining H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Colloquially known as Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a landmark U.S. federal statute enacted by the 111th United States Congress, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.  Intended to constrain healthcare costs, improve quality, and expand access, Obamacare required insurers to accept all applicants without charging based on preexisting conditions or demographic status (except age), and mandated that insurers cover a list of “essential health benefits” including mental health care. The law also expanded Medicaid coverage to more people with low incomes, and made it illegal for insurers to cancel health insurance benefits for individuals who become sick.

The Equitas Project – Mental Health Care Colorado: Model Legal Processes to Support Clinical Intervention for Persons with Serious Mental Illnesses: A national initiative of Mental Health Care Colorado, the state affiliate of Mental Health America, The Equitas Project (Care Not Cuffs) seeks to disentangle mental health and criminal justice, and provide policymakers with a template for mental health care reform that optimizes individual health outcomes and protects civil liberties, while preserving and improving public safety.  A more modern and cohesive model for effectively providing care to people with serious behavioral health needs, consistent with today’s scientific understanding of brain functioning, guidelines set out in The Equitas Project legislative language seek to reduce the risk of harm to mentally ill individuals during an emergency response, promote least restrictive, clinically-supported intervention practices, and create a pathway to emergency psychiatric assessment and appropriate mental health care treatment.  (Endorsed in August 2022 by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness.)

First-Ever Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health Dr. Lieberman contributed to the preparation of the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health issued by the Clinton White House on Dec. 13, 1999. The landmark report documented that mental health disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 Americans in any given year, and while new and effective treatments exist for most mental disorders, nearly half of all Americans with severe mental illness do not seek or receive treatment. The report, which pointed to major depression as the leading cause of disability in developed nations and estimated the direct annual cost of mental illness in the U.S. at approximately $70 billion, also focused on the connection between mental health and physical health, the specific mental health issues of children, adults, and the elderly, and stigma as a leading barrier for many Americans in recognizing, acknowledging, and seeking treatment for a mental health condition.

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Community Projects and Advocacy

Dr. Lieberman’s collaborative leadership has resulted in groundbreaking initiatives and programs to reduce stigma and advance mental health care amongst traditionally underserved populations, including communities of color, members of the LGBTQI+ community,  individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders, incarcerated persons, and people experiencing homelessness.

Division of Gender, Sexuality and Health: The Program for the Study of LGBTQI+ Health:  In 2012, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman and Dean Emerita of Columbia Nursing Bobbie Berkowitz collaborated to expand Columbia University’s long standing HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies. In doing so they recruited several new specialized faculty members including Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., Walter Bockting, Ph.D., and Tonda Hughes, Ph.D. and established a Division of Gender, Sexuality and Health, and the Program for the Study of LGBTQI+ Health, which promotes the health and wellness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and gender nonbinary people and their families and communities through research, clinical practice, education and training, and innovative policy development to advance LGBTQI+ health. The Program’s clinical footprint includes the Columbia Gender Identity Program and LGBTQ+ Health at the Nurse Practitioner Group.

PROMISE Project: In 2010, Dr. Lieberman was approached by fashion designer and philanthropist Dana Buchman about establishing a program to help Harlem and Washington Heights-area public school children with learning disabilities, thus marking the beginning of the PROMISE Project nonprofit.  In 2011, PROMISE Project joined forces with the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center to create PROMISE at Columbia. Today, Promise at Columbia is New York City’s most comprehensive program for undeserved public school children with learning disabilities, providing state-of-the-art neuropsychological assessments, clinical recommendations, and other support services they need to learn and succeed.

H.O.P.E. Center Harlem: Dr. Lieberman worked closely with former Columbia University Associate Professor of Psychiatry Sidney Hankerson, M.D. and Columbia Psychiatry faculty members, in partnership with Harlem’s First Corinthian Baptist Church, to develop an innovative clinical initiative dedicated to providing mental health services to Harlem’s Black and underserved communities. H.O.P.E. Center Harlem is a Mental Health Clinic offering free mental health services, education, and training to parishioners of First Corinthian Baptist Church, and the Harlem community at large. The center seeks to minimize the stigma around communities of color when seeking mental health services, and its licensed clinicians utilize evidence-based therapeutic practices to support daily living challenges including depression, trauma, sexual abuse, and bereavement.


Community Mental Health Project | The New York Public Library: During the COVID-19 pandemic, with support from the Leon Levy Foundation, Dr. Lieberman worked with Anthony Marx of The New York Public Library and Black Health to initiate the Community Mental Health Project, which serves Black and Latino New Yorkers–communities who experienced the highest health disparities and impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic–by providing mental health first aid in a creative fashion through education, outreach, and connection to mental health services. 


Dr. June Jackson Christmas Medical Student Program and Fellowship: Established in honor of Dr. June Jackson Christmas, an African American psychiatrist and founder of the Harlem Rehabilitation Center, the Dr. June Jackson Christmas Medical Student Program (JJC) offers medical students who belong to historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups the opportunity to explore a career in psychiatry through research experiences and clinical fellowships.


Miami Justice Center for Mental Health and Recovery:  A collaboration between Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman and Columbia Psychiatry, the Miami Justice Center for Mental Health and Recovery will provide a comprehensive system of care for individuals with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders who frequently cycle through the criminal justice and other acute care treatment systems. Combined with programs of research and education, the Center will serve as a model for facilities of this type throughout the nation. A first-of-its-kind facility to serve the most vulnerable, The Center will develop and disseminate best practice standards in clinical care, training, education, implementation science and evaluation, community outreach, and advocacy to build a healthier, more compassionate, and fiscally responsible Miami-Dade County. The Center will also address the many social determinants of mental health, with a focus on mental health diversion, treatment, and support services for individuals with serious mental illnesses or at higher risk of incarceration. In this context, Columbia Psychiatry will provide clinical and operational assistance in the development, operational planning, and implementation of the Center’s services.

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