In April 2013 Japan designated mental disorders as the fifth “priority disease” for national medical services, after cancer, stroke, acute myocardial infarction, and diabetes. All prefectures will be required to assess local mental health needs and develop necessary service components. This column provides an overview of the Regional Health Care Strategic Plan in the context of mental health and welfare reforms. The goals of the plan are to alter the balance between institutional and community-based care for patients with severe and persistent mental disorders, integrate general medical and mental health care, and support greater independence for people with mental disorders. It is a political challenge for Japan to reallocate resources to rebalance care services while maintaining free access to care.