Mental Health Advocates Needed: Become Part of the National, State & Local Solutions to the Mental Health Crisis
Submitted by Edie Mannion on 3/7/2023
Chair of NAMI Main Line Advocacy Committee
Our mental health system is in crisis and so is the mental health (MH) of a growing number of Americans, especially our youth! Senator Fetterman’s public announcement of his voluntary treatment for major depression and campaign to raise funds for NAMI reminds us that breaking stigma, getting treatment and supporting advocacy organizations are all important for addressing personal and systemic MH crises.
NAMI National and NAMI Keystone are major sources of ideas for government officials and legislators about the biggest problems and solutions for the MH system. NAMI National’s priorities for Congress in 2023-24 include:
- Reimagining crisis response
- Advancing research for discovering more precise diagnostics & innovative treatments
- Improving youth MH
- Increasing access to care through affordable, comprehensive insurance coverage, especially for communities of color
Last year the White House invested in youth MH, launched 988 and expanded Medicare coverage to include family therapists and professional counselors. After listening to NAMI advocates, below is their list of priorities for “Tackling the Mental Health Crisis:”
- Creating healthy environments (e.g., protect kids online, strengthen data privacy, support MH of healthcare work force, promote youth resilience)
- Connecting more Americans to care (e.g, new rules for behavioral health insurance companies, improve school-based MH services, expand crisis workforce and best practices in crisis response, expand telehealth and interstate provider license reciprocity);
- Expanding the behavioral health (mental health and substance use) workforce (e.g., recruit diverse candidates to the MH profession);
- Beating the Opioid and Overdose Epidemic (e.g, disrupt trafficking, distribution and sale of fentanyl)
- Addressing the needs of our veterans (e.g, increase mental health screenings, expand VA peer support);
- Expanding access to substance use evidence-based prevention, harm reduction treatment and recovery (e.g., expand access to naloxone, expand access to medications for opioid use disorder, educate youth on the dangers of fentanyl and how naloxone saves lives, 2-year extension to classify fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I substances)
- Releasing the White House Report on MH Research Priorities: https://www.
whitehouse.gov/wp-content/ uploads/2023/02/White-House- Report-on-Mental-Health- Research-Priorities.pdf
In his budget address on March 7, Governor Shapiro proposed these priorities related to mental health:
- Sustainable funding for 988 crisis call centers
- Full funding of county MH programs
- Enforcing parity between physical health and MH coverage by health insurance companies
- Half billion $$ over next 5 years for MH services on site at every public school in PA
If your national and state legislators hear personal stories from their constituents who have suffered from problems in accessing quality MH services (or personal stories from their family members), they will be more likely to support reforms to increase access to MH services. YOU are a critical part of the solution, and here’s what YOU can do:
- Take NAMI National’s NAMI Smarts grassroots advocacy skills training: https://www.nami.org/Support-
Education/NAMI-Programs/NAMI- Smarts-for-Advocacy?gclid= CjwKCAiAmJGgBhAZEiwA1JZoliVFpG SoS-6FYymuuWs-lwTWOVkk5- YhpGg68B6AH4AqPFpKtKHtXBoCjJcQ AvD_BwE. To register for the next online advocacy training, contact Nikki Weigand at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Even if you don’t take this training, it is still critical to write to and/or call the office of your national and state senators and representatives on BOTH sides of the aisle to tell your story and what you want them to do to address it. Whether it is improving the crisis response system, shortening the long wait lists for public MH services, having your insurance accepted by more experienced private providers, or whatever issue has affected you/your family, your story can make a BIG difference when your legislators are voting, especially if they know you will find out how they voted on relevant legislation!
- If you have other priorities and/or want to join NAMI Main Line’s Advocacy Committee , please contact me as soon as possible at email@example.com and use ADVOCACY IDEAS in the subject line.
Thank you for reading this article and seriously considering taking any of the steps mentioned. Together we can do our part to improve our mental health system!
Page last updated in March 2023.