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Noted psychiatrist and former Verily leader Dr. Tom Insel is going to be the “mental health czar” for the state of California, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday.

Insel, the former National Institute of Mental Health director, will also continue his work with Mindstrong, a startup that is working on a mental health app, a company spokesperson confirmed. Insel joined the company in 2017 after leaving Verily, Google’s life sciences arm.

Insel’s new job will be to “inform the state’s work as California builds the mental health system of tomorrow, serving people whether they are living in the community, on the streets or if they are in jails, schools or shelters,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.


In a press conference, Newsom said Insel was “volunteering” his time as an adviser. “I’m calling him the mental health czar in the state of California,” he said.

Mindstrong, which is focused on using data on how people use their smartphone to detect trends in their mental health, already has a relationship with public officials in California. One of Mindstrong’s first large-scale rollouts was slated to happen in the state through county-level public mental health systems, STAT reported in October.


A spokesperson for Mindstrong said that Insel would recuse himself from conversations about the company, and noted that he will have “no fiscal or regulatory authority and will have no oversight of current programs in this voluntary role.”

The spokespeople for Newsom and for California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, with whom Insel will be working, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Mindstrong raised $31 million in an expanded Series B round in January led by General Catalyst, bringing the company’s total funding to about than $60 million.

“Our excitement over Mindstrong’s technology is bolstered by our inspiration in the core founding team,” an associate and the managing partner of General Catalyst wrote in a blog post in January about the investment.

  • OMG Mindstrong’s technology sounds like Orson Wells movie “1984”. If this is ever implemented consumers. After learning what they got in to with the apps will all be destroy their phones and trying to survive with out any internet. But a tech scientist being appointed Mental Health czar is absolute craziness.

  • Mentally disabled diagnosed 2005, Army vet. Ended up in the SD county mental Mesa in San Diego facility. They told me PTSD and bipolar issues. Stressed hit 40yrs Lost wife and house etc 56 now after trying to get my work re invented the 3rdx 2012 DOD told me go home. Home less no income till 2016/applied for disability 5/26/2012 denied. Moved to the woods in 96010 son visit took me to Redding CA re application and awards letter after they had their poeple checks 7/14/2016 was what they say 1317.00 pr myssi physically had truama surgery in San Diego 7/20/2017 Trinity county medi/medi was my care. SD county worker suck they took medical away over cost of living raise 22.00 pr mo cost me 12% of my annual income. Top it off gave 15.00 ebt can’t eat till after memorial day weekend. Pissed

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