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Senate Passes Legislation to Help Prevent Suicide, Help Children Recover from Traumatic Events, Provide Mental Health Awareness for Teachers

Senators Alexander and Murray urge House passage of bipartisan Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act

WASHINGTON, December 18 – The chairman and ranking member of the Senate health committee today urged House passage of their legislation to help state and local communities prevent suicide, help children recover from traumatic events, and help improve mental health awareness for teachers and others. The bipartisan Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

“I urge the House to pass this legislation without delay so that we can offer crucial support to the nearly one in five American adults suffering from mental illness,” said Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “This legislation will help states like Tennessee give parents, doctors and teachers the tools they need recognize and treat mental illness earlier.”

“A person’s mental health is every bit as important as their physical health, and we need to make sure that families and communities, especially our young people, have the support they need to address mental health challenges,” said Senator Murray. “I was proud to work with Chairman Alexander on this bipartisan legislation to strengthen mental health awareness, prevention, and resources in Washington state and across the country, and I am pleased the Senate passed it today. While this legislation was an important step forward, we must do more to strengthen our nation’s mental health system, and I look forward to continued work with my colleagues to improve mental health care for the families and communities we serve.”

The Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act 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.

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.

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), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), 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.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

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