The U.S. Senate has passed the Harkin/Alexander amendment, the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act (S. 689), by a vote of 95-2. AFSP applauds the passage of this legislation.
“This amendment is the first significant mental health legislation passed by the Senate since 2008,” said Robert Gebbia, executive director for AFSP.
“We are particularly pleased that this act reauthorizes important federal youth suicide prevention programs for states and college campuses under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, as well as approves a new mental health awareness training initiative that will help schools and emergency personnel recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness and suicide risk,” continued Gebbia.
The Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act will help advance suicide prevention through:
- Reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which provides key youth suicide prevention programs targeted to states, tribes, and college campuses;
- Mental health awareness training for school and emergency services personnel so they can recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, become familiar with resources in the community for individuals with mental illnesses, and learn how to safely de-escalate crisis situations involving individuals at risk for self-harm; and
- Expansion of the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) to all 50 states, which would ensure the availability of complete, accurate, and timely information used to design effective suicide prevention strategies.
AFSP is disappointed that the Senate did not vote on the Stabenow/Blunt Excellence in Mental Health amendment at this time. This amendment would have created national standards for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics and provided necessary funding to expand treatment to 1.5 million Americans living with behavioral health conditions who currently cannot access the comprehensive services and support they need.
AFSP pledges to continue working with Congress to win passage of both the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act and the Excellence in Mental Health Act, and to ensure that the necessary funds are appropriated to fully implement these mental health initiatives.