Committee Passes Alexander, Murray Bill to Help Prevent Suicide, Increase Early Identification of Mental Illness

Senators urge full senate passage of Bipartisan Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 30 – The chairman and ranking member of the Senate health committee today urged Senate passage of their legislation to extend programs to help prevent suicide among youths, ensure the nation’s health care system is better prepared to provide support to children and families in the wake of traumatic events, and equip teachers and others to recognize and understand mental illness.

The Senate health committee today passed their bill, the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, which will continue and improve programs that help states and local communities prevent suicide, help children recover from traumatic events, provide mental health awareness for teachers and others, and assess barriers to integrating behavioral health and primary care.

“Experts in the field of mental health all agree on at least one thing: the earlier they identify mental health problems in an individual, the better the chances are of that person being able to overcome or at least manage it. This legislation would help give doctors, researchers, teachers and parents the tools they need recognize mental illness earlier,” said Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “I hope the Senate will pass this bill soon so that those with mental illnesses can get the support they need as soon as possible.”

“We have seen time and time again, in Washington state and across the country, how important it is that families and communities—and especially our young people—get the support they need when faced with mental illness,” said Senator  Murray. “I’m pleased that by advancing the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, we have taken a bipartisan step toward ensuring that our country treats mental health as every bit as critical as physical health—and I hope we can build on this bipartisan foundation with continued progress in the weeks and months ahead.”

Cosponsors of the legislation include Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

This bipartisan legislation updates programs that improve awareness of mental health conditions and supports individuals, schools, and health care providers in addressing mental health needs within their communities. 

Some details on what the bill does:

·       Supports suicide prevention and intervention programs.

·       Helps train teachers and school personnel to recognize and understand mental illness.

·       Helps children recover from traumatic events, including support for national network of child trauma centers.

·       Requires a study of federal requirements that may get in the way of integrating mental health and substance use disorder treatment with primary care, as well as other barriers to care.

·       Directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to improve education and awareness among providers and patients of treatments for addiction to opioid painkillers.

·       Requires a Government Accountability Office study on mental health services for children, looking at both access and availability.

·       Encourages sharing of information on best practices for mental health and substance use disorders in older adults.

·       Encourages the improvement of the National Violent Death Reporting System, which currently collects data from 32 states.

·       Requires a government study on the status of recommendations to Department of Health and Human Services in 2007 report following Virginia Tech tragedy.

Click here for bill text and here for a detailed summary of the bill’s sections.


Press Contact


Margaret Atkinson / Jim Jeffries (Alexander): 202-224-0387

Helen Hare / Eli Zupnick (Murray): 202-224-5398