Standards of Affiliation | Mental Health America

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Standards of Affiliation

Mental Health America Affiliate Standards

This policy, approved by the National Delegate Assembly on Saturday June 12, 2010, was approved by the National Board of Directors on Sunday June 13, 2010. Amendments require the approval of the National Delegate Assembly.

The full copy of the Standards along with a Reader's Guide is available here.

Mental Health America Standards for Affiliates


Mental Health America is dedicated to promoting mental health, preventing mental and substance use conditions and achieving victory over mental illnesses and addictions through advocacy, education, research and service.


Mental Health America envisions a just, humane and healthy society in which all people are accorded respect, dignity, and the opportunity to achieve their full potential free from stigma and prejudice.

Standards Defined

Standards indicate what is required by all affiliates, regardless of their model of affiliation. However, beginning in 2010, Standards apply differently to probationary and policy affiliates. See Standards 9A and 9B. In particular, probationary affiliates will be granted time to meet Standards, and Standard 4, relating to Research/Services, is relaxed for policy affiliates that do not operate programs. If an affiliate does not meet a particular Standard, this would generate a discussion as to why, and may have implications on its affiliation status. Through training, technical assistance and peer supports, Mental Health America will work with the MHA network to make these Standards a reality for all affiliates.


  • Work to achieve the MHA mission and vision of a just, humane and healthy society
  • Establish and maintain a visible, positive image for the affiliate and ensure significant influence, so the general public will recognize it as a leading mental health and substance abuse organization
  • Include consumers, family members and mental health and substance abuse providers in the staffing, leadership and/or operation of the affiliate
  • Maximize the involvement of volunteers, who represent the diversity of the community and mental health and substance abuse fields, in the work of the affiliate
  • Provide input, feedback and perspective within the MHA network to help shape the direction and development of the MHA movement

Affiliate Relations

  • Execute an affiliation agreement expressing compliance with national standards and policies and maintain affiliate status by completing reaffiliation paperwork, fulfilling dues obligations, and participating in a self-evaluation process
  • Participate in affiliate-to-affiliate communication throughout the MHA network

Advocacy/Public Policy

  • Advocate for public policies in keeping with the MHA mission through leadership, partnerships, and/or participation in coalitions


Establish or promote evidence-based, best, or promising practices to help put research into practice within the community


Plan and implement public education and media efforts in partnership with the other parts of the MHA network, and ensure that all materials are consistent with the messages and principles of the MHA movement

Cultural Competence

  • Engage staff and board in the development, endorsement and implementation of a statement, guiding principles, and action plan related to cultural and linguistic competence
  • Work to create a staff, board and programs that represent and respond to the diversity of the community

Marketing Identification

Use a name, logo and mission statement consistent with the national organization to help create a unified brand for the MHA movement

Administration/Organizational Maintenance

  • If appropriate, incorporate and seek IRS approval as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, maintain awareness of the limitations 501(c)(3) organizations have regarding lobbying, and when necessary, take the appropriate steps to protect tax-exempt status
  • Provide annual administrative and financial reporting on a timely basis as required by law and affiliation agreements
  • Maintain required documentation for internal and external reporting
  • Comply with all federal, state and local laws and regulations, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and other standards or requirements of appropriate oversight authorities
  • Develop and implement effective and realistic strategies for financial management and operation

Probationary and Policy Affiliates

  • Affiliates in the first three years after affiliation, or that have been placed on probation, are referred to as "probationary affiliates." All Standards shall be applied to probationary affiliates with due recognition of the difficulties incurred in launching a new organization or rebuilding one. In response to specific conditions, MHA may modify application of the Standards to accommodate a probationary affiliate's circumstances.
  • State affiliates that engage principally in state policy advocacy, education, and public information and local affiliates that do not have the resources to engage staff or operate programs and limit their activities to policy advocacy, education, and public information are referred to as "policy affiliates." Policy affiliates shall be held to all Standards except for the programmatic requirements of Standard 4, relating to Research/Services, the application of which may be modified by MHA to accommodate the policy affiliate's circumstances.

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