In his Military Times article (Will major veterans suicide prevention legislation pass this year, or get stalled by political fights?), Leo Shane II noted the continuing importance of advocacy when it comes to moving suicide prevention legislation forward.
"The future of major legislation on veterans suicide prevention policy in Congress remains unsettled for now despite claims of a breakthrough this week from Senate leaders and pleas from veterans advocates to pass something on the issue as soon as possible."
Even policies that are widely supported are stalled. In example, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, passed out of the Senate in early August and has received praise from administration officials and veterans advocates alike.
The American Counseling Association also understands the importance of advocacy. In one of their most recent newsletters, they noted some of their successes;
"Due in part to your advocacy efforts, today the House has passed several mental health bills that are endorsed by ACA:
- H.R. 5469, the “Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act,” introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and eight other Members of Congress. The bill would authorize federal funding to address mental health inequities among underserved populations, including communities of color. The bill includes provisions that would: create a grant program targeted at high-poverty communities for culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services; support research into disparities in mental health; reauthorize the Minority Fellowship Program to support more students of color entering the mental health workforce; and study the impact of smartphones and social media on adolescents.
- H.R. 1109, the “Mental Health Services for Students Act,” introduced by Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY). The bill authorizes grants to fund school-based mental health services. The program would support screening for social, emotional, mental, and behavioral issues, including suicide or substance use disorders; treatment and referral for these issues; development of evidence-based programs for students experiencing these issues; and other strategies for schools to support students and the communities that surround them. The goal of the program is to create partnerships between schools and community-based mental health professionals across the country.
- H.R. 5572, the “Family Support Services for Addiction Act of 2020,” introduced by Reps. David Trone (D-MD) and Daniel Meuser (R-PA). The bill authorizes the Secretary of HHS to award grants to support family community organizations that develop, expand, and enhance evidence-informed family support services for families and family members living with substance use disorders or addiction. The grants may be used to build connections between family support networks, with behavioral health and primary care providers, and foster care services, among others. The grant may also be used to reduce stigma around addiction and addiction treatment, family support outreach activities, and connect families to peer support programs.
It remains to be seen whether the Senate, which will now be in session next week due to the pending Supreme Court nomination, will consider these measures before the November 3rd election. ACA will keep you updated on any developments."
Paying attention to public policy bills and updates is critical. Katie King of the San Jose Spotlight explains the need in her article, Anna Eshoo and Mental Health Advocates Push Suicide Prevention Legislation: