Alexander, Murray Introduce Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act

Bipartisan bill will improve programs to increase awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions

Posted on July 29, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 29 – Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today introduced the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, a bill to continue and improve programs that help states and local communities in suicide prevention, helping children recover from traumatic events, mental health awareness for teachers and other individuals, and assessing barriers to integrating behavioral health and primary care.

“This bill will help those suffering from mental health conditions by answering two key questions: Who needs help? And who is there to provide that help?” said Alexander. “By helping teachers and other individuals recognize the signs of mental illness and by supporting researchers and doctors working to improve care and treatment for children who go through traumatic events, this bill will help see that Americans suffering from mental illness can get the support they need as soon as possible.”

“As we’ve seen far too often over the years in Washington state, we have absolutely to make sure that families and communities—and especially our young people—receive the support they need when facing mental health challenges,” said Murray. “A person’s mental health is every bit as critical as their physical health, and I’m pleased to be working on this bipartisan legislation with Chairman Alexander to strengthen mental health awareness, prevention, and resources for communities in my home state and across the country.”

Cosponsors of the legislation include Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), 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.), 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.

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