Advocacy

Personal experience with mental illness and navigating the mental health system makes family members and people with mental illness uniquely qualified to both educate elected officials on issues of importance and advocate for the policies and funding necessary to provide services that are essential to people with mental illness.

NAMI Main Line PA sends electronic Advocacy Alerts in support of legislation and policy to benefit individuals with mental illness and their families. Recent Advocacy Alerts are shown in the first section below.

County level advisory boards such as Community Support Programs (CSP) provide another opportunity for advocacy. Information about the Montgomery County CSP and additional advocacy opportunities is given in the final section of this webpage.

If you would like to receive our Advocacy Alerts or participate in other advocacy, please contact Kristine Songster.  Click here to find your local, state, and national legislators.

Advocacy Alerts

NAMI Main Line PA sends electronic Advocacy Alerts in support of legislation and policy to benefit individuals with mental illness and their families. If you would like to receive these Advocacy Alerts or participate in other advocacy, please contact Kristine Songster. Recent Advocacy Alerts are shown below.

A Mental Health System Being Pushed to the Brink (5/14/20)

The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis that we aren’t prepared to address. Social isolation, financial distress, fears about health and an uncertain future are worsening symptoms for people with mental health conditions and causing new mental health challenges for many others. 

We need your help in ensuring Congress takes action to address this growing crisis. 

Yesterday, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) was released in the House, and it includes many of NAMI’s priorities. The HEROES Act could be voted on as early as Friday. This bill supports mental health by: 

  1. Protecting state and local capacity to provide mental health services: State and local governments are on the verge of making widespread cuts. This bill provides emergency funds to preserve mental health services and meet growing demand.
  2. Enhancing the ability to respond to mental health crises: Helplines are experiencing surges in calls as people struggle. The HEROES Act establishes 9-8-8 as the nation’s three-digit hotline for effective mental health crisis care and suicide prevention.
  3. Protecting people with mental illness who are justice-involved: There are alarming gaps in our health care system’s ability to care for people in custody and as they reenter the community. This bill provides Medicaid coverage for eligible people leaving the criminal justice system.
  4. Ensuring safe housing for people with mental illness: Many people with mental health conditions do not have safe housing or are at risk of losing housing with the loss of steady income. The HEROES Act includes investments in emergency rental assistance, assistance to homeowners and to people experiencing homelessness.
  5. Preserving the mental health treatment infrastructure: While the need for mental health services has never been higher, many mental health providers are reducing services. This bill includes $100 billion in emergency funding for health care providers, including mental health providers.

Raise your voice and ask your members of Congress to act NOW. Urge your Representative to support the HEROES Act and ask your Senators to prioritize similar mental health provisions in any Senate action.

Congress’ Missing COVID-19 Response: Mental Health (4/27/20)

Cross-posted from NAMI National.

COVID-19 isn’t just affecting our physical health and daily life—it’s affecting our mental health. Whether it’s lack of access to mental health treatment, loneliness and depression from isolation, stress and anxiety from the danger of contagion, grief from losses, or despair from losing employment and trying to make ends meet, our country is in pain. 

Nearly half of Americans report that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health. 

Yet, despite trillions of dollars being spent to respond to this pandemic, little has gone to address the mental health emergency arising from this crisis.  

This is unacceptable. 

Our Congressional leaders need to step up and act to help people with mental health conditions and every single person trying to cope with uncertainty, isolation and grief.  

Demand for mental health services has never been higher, but most mental health providers say they have been forced to cut back on their operations. Meanwhile, there has been an 891% jump in calls to the federal government’s crisis hotline. 

We need Congress to provide funds to keep mental health providers afloat. Congress also needs to invest in crisis services, peer supports and other services to meet growing community mental health needs. And we need Congress to respond to the spread of this virus in our criminal justice system, which houses far too many people with mental illness.  

We need Congress to act, and act quickly.

Take action TODAY. Reach out to your members of Congress and tell them that mental health is still missing from our nation’s response to COVID-19. 

Read NAMI’s full list of Congressional asks to help people with mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tell Congress that COVID-19 Recovery Needs toProtect Mental Health Care (4/11/20)

Cross-posted from NAMI National

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting everyone, causing more demand for mental health services. The NAMI community knows, even in the best of times, how hard it is to get mental health care.

Unfortunately, Congress’ response to this crisis hasn’t focused enough on mental health, leaving mental health providers struggling to offer services and keep their doors open.

That means it’s getting harder than ever for people to get the help they need.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been impossible to get appointments or help. Even after being hospitalized, my son was discharged without an appointment. He has been without therapy for weeks.” – NAMI member in Pennsylvania

In the coming weeks and months, we’re going to need more mental health care than ever. This is why Congress needs to act quickly to not only preserve our existing mental health system but to also increase our system’s capacity.

NAMI and dozens of partners are demanding $38.5 billion for mental health providers and organizations so they can stay open in our time of greatest need.

Here’s how you can help:

Take two minutes and tell your members of Congress how COVID-19 is affecting your or your loved one’s ability to get mental health services. You’ll find a template when you click the “Take Action” button below, but we strongly encourage you to add a few sentences with your own story to make it personal.

Members of Congress need to hear your voice now. As a constituent, you have the power to ensure people with mental health conditions aren’t left behind in our nation’s response to this crisis.

TAKE ACTION TODAY

COVID-19 Advocacy: Help People with Mental Health Conditions (3/19/20)

Cross-posted from NAMI National

NAMI hopes you and your family are staying well, and we recognize that the spread of coronavirus impacts every person in this country.

But, we also know that people affected by mental health conditions face unique challenges during this time. We need your help to tell our nation’s leaders how they can support and protect people with mental illness.

As the Senate prepares the third in a series of COVID-19-related relief bills, please urge your Senators to ensure people affected by mental illness can maintain their treatment, get health and mental health coverage, access needed supports, and lift up the nonprofits they depend on, like NAMI.

We need you to ask your U.S. Senators to do 4 things:

1. Remove barriers to mental health treatment. People need ways to manage existing mental health conditions and maintain mental wellness while reducing their exposure to the coronavirus. To do this, Congress should:

  • Eliminate all barriers to widely implementing telehealth in all public and private health plans and encourage all health plans to provide extended supplies and/or mail order refills of prescriptions. Both actions will help people with mental illness avoid risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Approve funding for Emergency Response Grants at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to assist states in continuing to provide treatment for people with mental health conditions and substance use disorders.

2. Promote coverage for health and mental health care. People with mental health conditions are often uninsured or face barriers to getting needed treatment and supports. These challenges are even greater during a crisis. To address this, Congress should:

  • Immediately launch a special enrollment period for commercial health insurance in the Marketplace (HealthCare.gov) to make sure people have access to affordable, quality health care coverage.
  • Require the use of “presumptive eligibility,” which allows certain providers like hospitals and clinics to enroll people in Medicaid that they believe meet eligibility criteria.
  • Ensure free COVID-19 testing and treatment for everyone, including people who are uninsured.

3. Ensure safe housing for people with severe mental illness. Many people with severe mental illness experience homelessness or housing insecurity and are uniquely vulnerable to being exposed to the virus and outbreaks in shelters or encampments. With the loss of steady income, many more individuals are also at risk of losing housing. Congress must act by:

  • Providing $5 billion to serve people who are homeless and help them stay safe and healthy during this emergency.
  • Approving an additional $5 billion to provide rapid rehousing for people who are at immediate risk of becoming homeless and funding for rental assistance to help low-income renters weather this crisis.
  • Putting a temporary stop on evictions to ensure that renters and homeowners maintain stable housing during this crisis.

4. Support nonprofits’ capacity to serve. The economic impact of this crisis will also touch charitable organizations like NAMI organizations and our partners. Nonprofits need support to meet greater demand and fill important gaps during this time. To assist, Congress should:

  • Provide targeted assistance to 501(c)3 organizations to help them keep their doors open during this crisis and offer paid leave to their employees.

Your Senators need to hear from you TODAY. Please contact them now to ensure people with mental illness are helped in their response to COVID-19.

Together, we can ensure that no one in our community is left behind.  

Help Us Make 988 A Reality (2/10/20)

Cross-posted from NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania

Our nation is experiencing a mental health and suicide crisis; its time our emergency systems are set up to help.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed to make 9-8-8 the national number for mental health crisis and suicide prevention. It’s important that the FCC hears from you to know how important an easy-to-use, 3-digit number for mental health emergencies is to our community.

Submit comments to the FCC hereYou must enter “18-336” in the “Proceeding” section to comment or search “suicide”.

Deadline to submit comment is February 14, 2020.

Use the below template or let them know what implementing 9-8-8 as a 3-digit code for mental health emergencies will mean to you. Personal stories have a great impact so please consider including a note about the importance of easy to access crisis services.

Sample comment to submit:

Our nation needs a nationwide, 3-digit number (9-8-8) for suicide prevention and other mental health crises. Anyone who experiences a mental health crisis should be able to access help as easily as someone experiencing a physical health emergency. A 3-digit number should be available to every community and have the resources to provide help to every American who needs it. 

I ask the FCC to make it a priority for the new 9-8-8 system to be nationally available and adequately resourced, so that my community and others can provide the services necessary to anyone in crisis.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments and for your commitment to helping every American affected by mental illness.

Sincerely,
Name
City, State

Additional Advocacy Opportunities

Community Support Program (CSP) operate in every county and regionally. Montgomery County’s Community Support Program (CSP) brings together individuals that receive mental health services, their family members, providers and the Department of Behavioral Health in an equal partnership to promote recovery and excellence in the delivery of community-based mental health services.  The committee strives to include a balance of people who use services, people who provide services, family members, and interested members of the community at large.  The CSP initiatives continue to grow state, regionally and county wide. As the involvement increases CSP has become a place that feedback can truly be given to the county from individuals that receive services and information can be given that suits the needs and requests of those that attend.

Currently, Montgomery County CSP meetings are virtual, 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., 3rd Thursday of each month We invite all peers, family members and providers/professionals to attend. Please contact Penny Johnson, pjohnson@hopeworxinc.org,  to be added to the invite list for the next meeting, or to receive a copy of the most recent newsletter.

CSP Subcommittees:

  • Advocacy Subcommittee—Works on legislative, policy, communication, budget, voter education and other issues related to mental health services in the county, statewide and at the federal level when relevant. At the direction of the CSP Committee, the Advocacy Subcommittee gathers information on issues, plans advocacy events and creates a monthly newsletter to provide information to the stakeholder network as well as the community at large about the work of CSP. The newsletter also provides updates on new and changing mental health services provided in Montgomery County.
  • Social/Media Subcommittee—Works on facilitating opportunities for people in the CSP community to be more involved in the Montgomery County community. This includes implementing the Community Connections grants, which provide funding for people to participate in a variety of activities. The committee also implements transportation grants that provide gas cards and SEPTA day passes to CSP community members. The annual CSP Poster Art contest is also organized by this committee.
  • Conference Sub-committee – The conference subcommittee will plan and fundraise for the annual Montgomery County CSP Conference.
  • Newsletter Subcommittee—The newsletter subcommittee works to provide information to the public about CSP and mental health advocacy. The newsletter subcommittee is committed CSP recovery principles which is person centered and empowered by stakeholders. Our goal is to provide information through varies media avenue and to create a quality newsletter that includes but is not limited to, legislative advocacy, events, services, personal recovery stories and creative writing such as poems. Please feel free to submit articles and stories to enrich our newsletter. Send to the editor: kathiemitchell8221@gmail.com.

The OMHSAS Mental Health Planning Council provides counsel and guidance to Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ (DHS) OMHSAS in order to ensure an infrastructure and a full array of mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral health services which comply with the mission, vision, and guiding principles of OMHSAS, as well as core principles of the Community Support Program (CSP), Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP), Cultural Competency, and Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP). The advisory structure ensures that:

  1. Individuals who have received services, family members, and other stakeholders have the opportunity for meaningful, effective participation in advising OMHSAS.
  2. 2. Information is shared broadly and in a timely manner from stakeholders to OMHSAS and from OMHSAS to stakeholders.
  3. Valuable networking opportunities are available among stakeholders.
  4. There are productive partnerships between OMHSAS and the Planning Council.

The OMHSAS Mental Health Planning Council is comprised of three committees and one subcommittee: Children’s Behavioral Health Committee, Adult Behavioral Health Committee, Older Adult Behavioral Health Committee, and Persons in Recovery Subcommittee. These committees will advise on a broad behavioral mandate to include, but not be limited to, mental health, substance abuse, behavioral health disorders, and cross-system disability.

Meetings are attended by appointed members, state and county staff and elected officials, and are open to the public. Register for the June meeting (virtual) at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3807770801464117006

C/FST Surveys – offer consumers and family members the opportunity to provide feedback on satisfaction, quality of life and service issues to state and county staff and officials, managed care organizations and providers.

Family Empowerment Satisfaction Team (FEST) is currently surveying young people and their parent/caregivers on Youth Acute Inpatient Programs, and will be surveying on Mobile Crisis later in the year. FEST researchers are also interviewing parent/caregivers and teen on their experiences during the COVID-19 Emergency. To receive a copy of FEST’s recent newsletter, which includes recent interviews, survey results, and information about FEST’s upcoming scope of work, please contact Kathy Laws at klaws@mhphope.org.

Last updated in May, 2020.

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