Taking a Stand for Civic Engagement this Mental Health Month

Taking a Stand for Civic Engagement this Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month—31 days dedicated to raising awareness for, and breaking down stigma against, the tens of millions of Americans who will experience a mental health or substance use disorder each year.

Throughout the month, we have shared information about how policymakers can improve America’s mental health and addiction care systems by investing in prevention, prioritizing access to affordable treatments, and by strengthening recovery services and supports. While these reforms are urgent, history has proven that policymakers are unlikely to give them the attention they deserve.

If we truly believe it’s time for Mental Health for US, then we need to make sure the mental health and addiction community is engaged and makes our voices heard in upcoming elections.

The value of advocacy and civic engagement

The most effective way to make a change in your community is to stand up, practice your constitutional right to vote, and make your voice heard. As our friend Thomas Jefferson said, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” So, let’s participate! By being an advocate for mental health and addiction, you are actively setting an example for others and providing them an outlet to better understand the issues facing our community.

Advocating for something you believe in can take many forms, including writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, utilizing social media to share new ideas or stats, or encouraging your local community to practice their constitutional right to vote. Americans have a right and a responsibility to participate in our democracy – the easiest tool we have to do that is voting!

Voting in elections

While we don’t know the full impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on this year’s election, many experts believe we’re at risk of lower voter turnout than in years past. Given the fact that people living with mental illness and addiction (as with other disenfranchised communities) are already less likely to participate in elections, we can’t afford to cede any ground.

To those who may be skeptical about voting, it is important to consider the benefits of participating in elections.

  • Community: By participating in an election, we are joining neighbors to take a stand for issues you believe in. Elections can give us a sense of belonging that make us feel like we are a part of something greater than ourselves.
  • Civic engagement: Elections are a way to engage with the civic culture—the institutions that make up our daily lives. Consider elections not as one election, but as thousands of local elections held by every community in the country at the same time. These events allow us to connect to the people around us.
  • Expression: Elections are a means of individual expression. The First Amendment is one of the most valued American rights. Elections are a key mechanism to practice our individual agency and express ourselves.

While voting is critical, a substantial barrier to the ballot box is the complexity of the registration process. Learning more about how to become a registered voter in your state is an important step of becoming a better advocate for mental health and addiction – not only for yourself, but for your friends and neighbors as well.

Getting involved in civic engagement

Before taking action to educate others on the voting process, brushing up on our election knowledge will allow you to be more prepared to register yourself and answer any questions that may pop-up during your conversations with others.

There are plenty of resources to help you make sure you’re registered to vote, and even help others along the way! The Fair Elections Center has a comprehensive guide to the voter registration policies and procedures in each state – it is important to refer to your state’s guide before engaging in voter registration activities. If your state does not offer a robust online voter registrations system, Vote.org is a good resource to check on registration deadlines around the country. To explore remote voting options, this resource also has a state-by-state guide to the policies and procedures that govern mail-in voting.

Even if your state’s laws on mail-in ballots are restrictive, you shouldn’t let COVID-19 stand in the way between you and the ballot box this November! If you do have to vote in person, try to go to the polls during a time of day when there are fewer crowds and lines—often this will be early morning or mid-afternoon. You can also check to see if your state offers early voting periods – Voto Latino has a great list of all the states that offer this important service. As in all public spaces, make sure you practice social distancing while standing in line and interacting with other voters and poll workers and wash your hands before and after voting. You can also call your election administrator ahead of time to see if they offer curb-side voting.

Before you fill out your ballot, make sure you take some time to educate yourself about where the candidates stand on the issues that matter to you. The non-partisan resources below are some of the best tools available to help you and others make an informed decision this November.

  • VOTE411 lets you type in your address to see where candidates running for office in your community stand on the issues. You can also learn more about the initiatives that will be on your ballot come November.
  • Project Vote Smart will give you information about your representatives, including biographies, voting records, issue positions, and campaign contributions.
  • Mental Health for US asked presidential candidates where they stand on issues addressing mental illness and addiction. Visit our website to see what they had to say.

Above all, it’s important to remember that voting doesn’t have a party. Any effort to educate your friends and neighbors on the importance of voting is most effective when it’s motivated not by partisan alignment, but by a genuine interest in ensuring they have the tools they need to make their voices hear. Communities with high voter-turnout, regardless of party, report as having greater overall well-being, as well as higher amounts of resources and attention from elected officials.

Make sure you visit our website to check your voter registration status, register to vote, pledge to vote, sign up for election reminders, and help your friends do the same.

Take a stand for mental health

With one in five American adults living with a mental illness, and one in 12 living with addiction, the time for comprehensive mental health and addiction reform is long overdue. Throughout Mental Health Month, we have shared more information about our policy platform to explore how policymakers can change the way we care for people living with mental health and addiction. However, if we want transformational change that truly changes our care systems, we need to stand united and take action!

Voting in this year’s election isn’t enough – we need to make sure our friends, family, and neighbors are empowered to do the same. Take the WEVOTE pledge today and commit to helping five friends register to vote before November!

Mental Health for US is a nonpartisan, educational initiative focused on elevating mental health and addiction to national policy conversations by empowering grassroots advocates and improving candidate and policymaker health literacy. The Mental Health for US coalition is comprised of 95+ organizations from around the country dedicated to uniting the American people to make systemic, long-term change with civic engagement tools and resources. For more information, visit www.mentalhealthforus.net.

Exercise your constitutional rights and pledge to help five friends register to vote before the November elections! #WEVOTE

Taking a Stand for Recovery this Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month – 31 days dedicated to raising awareness for, and breaking down stigma against, the tens of millions of Americans who will experience a mental health or substance use disorder each year.

We’re halfway through the month and so far we’ve shared information about how policymakers can improve America’s mental health and addiction care systems by investing in prevention and prioritizing access to affordable treatments and services – but the mental health journey doesn’t end with prevention or early intervention. Often, that’s just the beginning of a longer journey.

While nearly one in five Americans – tens of millions of people – will experience a mental health or substance use condition in any given year, less than half will receive any treatment. Even for those who do receive services, though, treatment does not guarantee long-term recovery. That’s why bolstering recovery services and supports is a crucial component of addressing the nation’s mental health and addiction crises.

Recovery based on evidence, not stigma

Due to years of stigma and inaction, many of the recovery treatment and services in the current mental health and addiction care system relies on misconceptions and antiquated beliefs. If policymakers are serious about addressing the mental health and addiction crises, it is crucial that behavioral health and primary care treatment providers follow science rather than stigma.

Like those living with diabetes or cancer, patients living with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety require personalized treatment and support services. Measurement-based care models for mental illness and addiction allow providers to get people the help they need earlier, and if the prescribed treatments aren’t working, the provider can adjust the care plan to address the patient’s specific needs. This video from The Kennedy Forum has more on the benefits of measurement-based care models.

Policymakers must also work to expand the use of evidence-based practices that support long-term recovery and care for the whole person.

In the case of opioid use disorder (OUD), for example, we know that abstinence-only therapies alone do not address the physiological needs of those living with addiction. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)—an option that combines the use of recovery medications, counseling, behavioral therapies, and social supports—is considered the gold standard of care for those living with OUD because it helps stabilize a person’s brain while addressing the psychological components of addiction. However, only about 5% of American physicians can prescribe recovery medications. It would be inexcusable in America to deny those living with diseases like diabetes or heart disease medication that’s been scientifically proven to successfully treat their illness, so why would we tolerate a system that does that for those living with addiction?

The mental health and addiction communities understand the importance of prioritizing evidence-based services, now we just need the resources and investments necessary to get it done. If you’re interested in learning more, Shatterproof, a Mental Health for US coalition member, has more information on the importance of implementing MAT programs in addiction recovery settings.

Additionally, SAMHSA offers a comprehensive resource center for communities, clinicians, policymakers, and others in the field tools and resources that can help incorporate evidence-based practices into their communities or clinical settings.

Wrap around recovery supports

People living with mental illness, especially serious mental illness (SMI) and substance use disorders (SUD), rely on stability to recover, but so much about the current mental health care system is unstable. The lack of accessible, affordable, and timely treatment and recovery services has left many without the support they need and diverted people away from care and towards hospitalization, homelessness, or the criminal justice system. This, of course, makes long-term recovery hard to achieve. People living with SMI/SUD deserve community-based social supports that recognize their inherent dignity and provide the support they need to maintain their recovery.

The lack of affordable housing across the country affects a number of populations, but especially those living with SMI/SUD. For our readers who are not living with SMI/SUD, let’s try a little experiment: Imagine you’re an individual living with SMI or SUD and you’re unable to work while also maintaining your recovery. You rely on your monthly Social Security disability check to survive–with an average of $752 per month, you’re expected to put a roof over your head, put food on your table, cover the costs of for your medications, and pay for transportation to and from your treatment. Now consider the fact that the average national rent for a studio apartment in 2016 was $752 and the cost has only gone up since then. How can anyone possibly be expected to maintain stable housing and pay for their SMI/SUD treatments when rent alone is 99% of their income? This impossibility is just part of the reason that adults living with serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders make up 46% of homeless adults within the US.

Now imagine a future in which supportive housing is made available to those who need it. Housing that offers individuals a safe, warm place to call home and, if they accept it, would provide the treatment and supportive services they need to achieve long-term recovery. Imagine if people with SMI/SUD had access to peer supports that could connect them to community-based services that care for both the mind and the body. If those in recovery from mental illness or addiction had access to a quality education or could receive job or skills training that would help them earn a steady income and contribute to their communities. Finally, imagine a future where people living with mental illness and addiction can receive the care they need and dignity they deserve without having to fear being diverted to the criminal justice system.

This world can be a reality if our policymakers choose to take action and make community investments that protect and expand programs that provide supported housing, peer and caregiver support, system navigation, medication-assisted treatment, community integration, job and skill training, and education for all people with mental health and substance use disorders.

The mental health and addiction community has shown that recovery support services like those mentioned above work. For example, “housing first” programs have been proven to improve lives, generate savings to public systems, and benefit the communities in which they reside. Additionally, programs like Mental Health America’s “It’s My Life”—which combines peer supports, psychiatric rehabilitation, and the emerging best practices of self-directed care—have successfully allowed individuals with SMI to build supportive and sustainable relationships that increase quality of life while reducing crisis events and hospitalizations.

Treatment alone often does not result in the kind of positive long-term outcomes we’d expect from a comprehensive mental health and addiction recovery program. A wide variety of recovery services, treatments, and supports should be available to those who need them.

Expanding peer support programs

Whether we’ve experienced it in a treatment setting or not, we all know what it feels like to build a connection with someone who has had similar experiences to you—someone you can go to for advice or who is there just to listen. Peer support programs are an intentional way of building these connections in a clinical or community setting.

The concept of peer support programs is neither new nor specific to mental health and addiction care. In the late 1700s, clinics would hire recovered patients to assist with “moral treatment.” Since then, various forms of peer support have been utilized in just about every branch of medicine that deals with chronic conditions, including asthma, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. However, research in the last several years has shown that peer support programs are especially beneficial in long-term mental health and addiction recovery.

According to Mental Health for US coalition leader the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, a peer specialist is any person with mental health conditions who have completed specific training that enables them to enhance a person’s wellness and recovery by providing peer support. Research aggregated by Mental Health America has shown the use of peer support improves overall quality of life, increases and improves engagement with services, and increases whole health and self-management. These programs have also been proven to lower the overall cost of mental health services by reducing re-hospitalization rates and days spent in inpatient services.

Policymakers have the opportunity to improve the patient experience, provide more people with the care and support they need, and save money along the way – we must protect and expand the use of peer support services and peer-led programs like:

Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAP)

Developed in 1997 by a group of people who were searching for ways to overcome their own mental health concerns, WRAP is a self-designed prevention and wellness process that anyone can use to get well, stay well, and make their life they want it to be. For more information, or to find resources in Spanish, please visit mentalhealthrecovery.com.

Emotional CPR (eCPR)

eCPR is a comprehensive educational program designed to teach people to assist others through an emotional crisis by engaging three simple steps: connecting, empowering, and revitalizing.

Intentional Peer Support

IPS is a training program for people interested in incorporating peer support methods into both traditional and alternative mental health settings. Participants learn to use relationships to see things from new perspectives, develop greater awareness of personal and relational patterns, and support and challenge each other in trying new things.

Recovery that lasts a lifetime

For many people living with mental illness and/or addiction, recovery is a lifelong journey. Some can manage it with their own networks and free resources. Others, including people living with SMI, may need lifelong services. For these individuals, policymakers need to ensure that insurance coverage for psychiatric care, including inpatient hospitalization, doesn’t cut off after arbitrary dollar or day limits. Fully enforcing the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act is one step that policymakers can take to address this issue.

As a matter of human dignity, we must also work together as a society to ensure that people living with SMI have a say in their own care. Using shared decision-making and psychiatric advance directives, among other strategies, can help ensure that people living with SMI can choose how they are cared for when the need arises. What is right for one person may not be right for another, so a variety of services and community-based resources should be available to ensure choice. Learn more about how choice and alternatives can enhance the effectiveness of psychiatric care from the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery.

Mental Health for US is a nonpartisan, educational initiative focused on elevating mental health and addiction to national policy conversations by empowering grassroots advocates and improving candidate and policymaker health literacy. The Mental Health for US coalition is comprised of 95+ organizations from around the country dedicated to uniting the American people to make systemic, long-term change with civic engagement tools and resources. For more information, visit www.mentalhealthforus.net.

Exercise your constitutional rights and pledge to help five friends register to vote before the November elections! #WEVOTE

Taking a Stand for Access & Intervention this Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month – 31 days dedicated to raising awareness for, and breaking down stigma against, the tens of millions of Americans who will experience a mental health or substance use disorder each year.

Last week, we shared information about how policymakers can improve America’s mental health and addiction care systems by investing in prevention – but that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

While nearly one in five Americans – tens of millions of people – will experience a mental health or substance use condition in any given year, less than half will receive any treatment. The need for affordable, quality treatment couldn’t be more urgent. Roughly 116,000 Americans die each year from suicide and overdose, and the cost of untreated mental illness is estimated to be at least $444 billion each year.

We can’t afford to lose one more life to stigma and inaction. Policymakers must ensure all people with mental health conditions, including serious mental illnesses (SMI), substance use disorders, and eating disorders, have timely access to affordable treatment and services that treat the mind and the body.

Mental health is health

For far too long, many Americans have been forced to suffer in silence due the restrictive cost of treatment for their mental illness or substance use disorder. Even now, 11 years after the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (Federal Parity Law), complex insurance and managed care schemes result in the unequal coverage of mental and physical health care, forcing many of the people to pay for their mental health services out of pocket.

Federal and state governments should fully enforce the Federal Parity Law, which requires insurers to cover treatment for mental health and addiction no more restrictively than treatment for illnesses of the body, such as the flu, diabetes, or heart disease. This includes enforcing coverage equity in government sponsored plans like Medicare and Medicaid.

Don’t Deny Me, an initiative lead by Mental Health for US coalition leader The Kennedy Forum, offers consumers a way to make their voice heard and pressure elected officials, insurance commissioners, and attorneys general to enforce this critical law. Check out their website to learn more about parity and how you can play a role in making it a reality for us all.

Supporting America’s mental health workforce

One major barrier to mental health care in America is a shortage of qualified providers. According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, 95% of community health centers have at least one clinical vacancy. Even more shocking, 60% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist. If we want to improve the quality of mental health and addiction care in America, then our leaders need to get serious about addressing this workforce shortage.

It’s time for policymakers to ensure there are enough inpatient and outpatient resources across the country to provide needed care to a broad array of patients. Expanding the use of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), for example, is a great way Congress can address the mental health workforce shortage while making enhanced services available in community settings. Additionally, now more than ever, providers must have the freedom to use telemedicine and other digital tools to provide care for their patients. We don’t know what the post-coronavirus world will look like yet, but we must be prepared to address the mental health needs that will arise out of this crisis.

 

Emergency intervention during crises

Mental health and addiction crises, which can include psychotic episodes, suicidal ideations, or overdoses, are situations that many individuals and families living with mental illness or addiction may experience. However, our systems often aren’t set up to help families and communities safely navigate them when they occur.

Too often, people with these illnesses are treated like criminals instead of receiving help. Someone experiencing a psychotic episode, for example, may not understand a law enforcement officer’s orders and would therefore seem non-compliant. However, trainings like the one endorsed by CIT International could help the officer recognize the crisis and intervene appropriately (or better yet, these interventions could be done by a specialist). Policymakers must prioritize public health policies that support these and similar initiatives.

First and foremost, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network and the nation’s crisis centers must be funded by federal, state, and local entities to meet current needs and future demand. Additionally, policymakers should invest in improved community crisis services—such as mobile crisis units, crisis hotlines, and the use of non-law enforcement transportation— and focus on providing care and supportive services rather than engaging law enforcement.

If law enforcement must be involved, the responding officers, as well as the community and other first responders, should be equipped with the tools they need to help those affected by mental illness and addiction, including:

  • The overdose reversal medicine, naloxone, which should be made available in every community setting, including workplaces, libraries, community centers, train and metro stations, universities, and schools.
  • Training to recognize when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis or symptoms of SMI and how to de-escalate such situations.
  • Information about community resources that are available to people living with mental illness and addiction.

Decriminalize diseases of the brain

In any given year, 65% of the U.S. prison population lives with an active substance use disorder. Additionally, there are 1.2 million people living with a mental illness sitting in jail or prison. Rather than directing these individuals—often non-violent offenders convicted of low-level offenses like jaywalking, disorderly conduct, or trespassing—towards the treatment and services they need, our society places them behind bars.

As a matter of human rights, we should not criminalize diseases of the brain and warehouse those in need of treatment in jails and prisons. We must expand crisis intervention teams, increase the use of drug and mental health courts, make medication-assisted treatment (MAT) available to those currently incarcerated. Finally, policymakers must abolish mandatory minimum sentencing – an antiquated practice that brings a high cost at low return and diverts more mental health and addiction patients away from treatment and into prisons and jails.

Educating our communities

Whether we know it or not, we all have a role to play in caring for our communities, neighbors, friends, and family. That’s why all of us—emergency services personnel, first responders, teachers and school administrators, primary care professionals, students, and other members of the community—should be educated about the signs of mental illness and available resources through trainings such as Mental Health First Aid and Ending the Silence.

Policymakers can incentivize the public’s participation in these programs to ensure every community is equipped with the knowledge and resources to effectively respond in the case of emergency. These training programs allow us all to recognize the signs when someone is struggling or may be living with any SMI at any stage, know how to reach out, and where to refer for professional help when needed. As with all mental health supports and services, these training programs should be culturally and linguistically competent to provide the best care to each community.

Mental Health for US is a nonpartisan, educational initiative focused on elevating mental health and addiction to national policy conversations by empowering grassroots advocates and improving candidate and policymaker health literacy. The Mental Health for US coalition is comprised of 95+ organizations from around the country dedicated to uniting the American people to make systemic, long-term change with civic engagement tools and resources. For more information, visit www.mentalhealthforus.net.

Exercise your constitutional rights and pledge to help five friends register to vote before the November elections! #WEVOTE

Taking a Stand for Prevention this Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month – 31 days dedicated to raising awareness for, and breaking down stigma against, the tens of millions of Americans who will experience a mental health or substance use disorder each year.

With nearly one in five Americans living with mental illness and one in 12 living with addiction, and deaths from suicide and overdose at an all-time high, it’s clear that America’s mental health and addiction crises are not getting the attention they require of us. Now with the added impact of COVID-19, the gaping holes left by our current struggling system only seem to be widening, letting more and more people fall through the cracks.

We know what it will take to effectively and holistically address mental health and substance use disorders—and now more than ever, we need policymakers to take charge and make the necessary changes to support American families.

Improving mental health care in America begins with prevention. At its most basic level, bolstering America’s prevention strategies requires us to collectively agree that there is no health without mental health. Once that fact is common knowledge, we can do so much more to support the early detection and prevention of mental illness and addiction.

Mental health screenings and early interventions

The entire U.S. health care system (including schools, hospitals, and community health centers) must prioritize “check up from the neck up” screenings and early interventions so that we can treat mental health and substance use disorders “before stage four.” It’s never too early to get serious about mental health prevention strategies. This work must begin with perinatal behavioral health (that is, the mental health and wellbeing of mothers during pregnancy and through the first year of a child’s life) and continue throughout the developmental stages of children and young adults into adulthood.

Many of the tools we need to accomplish these screenings and early interventions already exist. For example, Mental Health America has free, comprehensive, and anonymous screening tools right on their website, and Postpartum Support International (PSI) has countless resources to help physicians screen for the presence of prenatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Policymakers must commit to expanding these programs on a larger scale and making them a standard practice in preventative health care for Americans of all ages.

Prioritizing prevention in schools

The early identification of mental health and substance use disorders is crucial in our efforts to support youth and families who may be facing behavioral health challenges. With suicide being the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34, prevention and early intervention couldn’t be more important.

We believe it’s time for policymakers to prioritize funding and resources that take a multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach to the early intervention and treatment of mental health in our childcare and educational systems. These resources include social-emotional learning initiatives, increased access to mental health professionals for all students and as part of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), home visiting programs, and mental health curricula and programs in schools that help people understand signs and symptoms and when to seek help. Examples like the National Institute of Mental Health’s RAISE program (Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode) and the California-based PREP program (Prevention Recovery in Early Psychosis) have proven what a positive impact these sorts of interventions can have on families. By utilizing a combination of early detection, rigorous diagnosis, supported employment, and an array of science-based treatments, the PREP program has resulted in a 71% decrease in hospitalizations for people living with symptoms of psychosis. Just imagine the benefits of implementing these initiatives in every community!

Addressing America’s suicide epidemic

We can’t afford to lose one more life to stigma and inaction. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, and rates are even higher among our youth and military populations. Any discussion about prevention must include a plan to reduce suicide rates and support those at risk for suicidal ideation.

Policymakers must take a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention ­– one that includes prioritizing prevention in schools, law enforcement agencies, emergency rooms and hospitals, workplaces, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a Mental Health for UScoalition leader and champion sponsor, has been fighting for sound suicide prevention policies for over 30 years and recently unveiled a plan to reduce the annual rate of suicide in the U.S. by 20% by 2025. With the support of federal, state, and local policymakers, we can make this a reality.

Supporting the needs of marginalized communities

When we say it’s time for Mental Health for US, we mean all of us! There is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to the prevention of mental illness across the country, and we can’t respond to this crisis as if there is. According to the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), people of color are less likely to receive mental health treatment or access mental health services than their white counterparts. Additionally, screening data from Mental Health America has shown that 86% of LGBTQ+ youth screened positive or moderate to severe for a mental health condition versus 74% of the general screening population.

Marginalized communities have faced disparities in mental health care (and health care at-large) throughout our country’s history, and any effort to improve their access to care will have to take that into account. It’s crucial that policymakers are intentional about providing support to these communities moving forward. This includes providing comprehensive, culturally competent, and accessible resources to people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Native Americans, veterans and military service members, people with physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities, and those in trauma-impacted neighborhoods.

Learn more about mental health through research

Public health policies are not effective without credible, peer-reviewed research to back them up. Unfortunately, inadequate funding has led to a dearth of research about mental health and addiction. The federal government must make substantial increases in medical research for mental health, suicide prevention, substance use disorders, and diagnostic tools to better understand the conditions and to provide better resources and more effective treatment for those struggling.

While strategies that support preventative care and early intervention of mental health are critically important, they’re just one piece of the puzzle. Throughout May, we’ll focus on the other branches of our policy platform to share how, together, we can fundamentally change the way America cares for people living with mental illness and substance use disorder.

Mental Health for US is a nonpartisan, educational initiative focused on elevating mental health and addiction to national policy conversations by empowering grassroots advocates and improving candidate and policymaker health literacy. The Mental Health for US coalition is comprised of 95+ organizations from around the country dedicated to uniting the American people to make systemic, long-term change with civic engagement tools and resources. For more information, visit www.mentalhealthforus.net.

Exercise your constitutional rights and pledge to help five friends register to vote before the November elections! #WEVOTE

Dear Candidates,

New Morning Consult data released by the National Council for Behavioral Health shows a majority of voters – regardless of party affiliation – say they are more likely to support a candidate in 2020 who promises to address mental health and addiction. In addition, the survey found that 75 percent of Americans believe the federal government is not doing enough to address mental health.

As a nonpartisan coalition of more than 80 organizations, Mental Health for US proves that our country is united in demanding change. Our policy platform outlines the bare minimum of what needs to be done to transform our systems for the better, now we just need leaders with the courage to get it done. Those running for president cannot ignore the toll that mental illness and addiction are taking on our communities.

Before heading to the polls, our community needs to know how you will work to support people living with mental illness and addiction. We want to see comprehensive plans that ensure prevention is integrated into our health and education systems; that improve access to interventions so that all Americans are able to find quality, affordable treatment; and that invest in a variety of recovery services, treatments, and supports to guarantee everyone can get the mental health and addiction care that fits their needs?

We invite presidential candidates to share your plans and engage with constituents directly at the Unite for Mental Health: New Hampshire Town Hall on December 16.

This event is your chance to get in front of a national audience and talk about issues that affect nearly one in five Americans across the country.

Date: Monday, December 16, 2019
Time: 6:30 PM
Location: Dana Center at Saint Anselm College
100 Saint Anselm Dr., Manchester, NH 03102

Please email Alex at alex@mentalhealthforus.net with any questions and to RSVP.

Signed,

Patrick J. Kennedy, Former U.S. Representative
Gordon H. Smith, Former U.S. Senator
Mental Health for US Co-Chairs

Mental Health for US Coalition Leaders

• American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
• Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness
• The Jed Foundation
• The Kennedy Forum
• Mental Health America
• National Alliance on Mental Illness
• National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery
• National Council for Behavioral Health
• One Mind
• The Scattergood Foundation
• The Voices Project

New Hampshire Host Committee

• American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire
• American Foundation for Suicide Prevention New Hampshire
• American Mental Health Counselors’ Association
• Bi-State Primary Care
• Center for Life Management
• Community Partners of Strafford County
• Disability Rights Center
• Granite State Home Health & Hospice Association
• Greater Nashua Mental Health
• Lakes Region Mental Health Center
• Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester
• Mental Health for US
• Monadnock Family Services
• NAMI New Hampshire
• National Council for Behavioral Health
• New Hampshire Medical Society
• New Hampshire Mental Health Counselors Association
• NH Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative
• NH Community Behavioral Health Association
• NH Psychiatric Association
• Northern Human Services
• Riverbend Community Mental Health, Inc.
• Seacoast Mental Health Center, Inc.
• West Central Behavioral Health

By Ryan Hampton, a nationally recognized activist, author of American Fix, founder of The Voices Project, and person in recovery from opioid addiction.

Substance use disorder (SUD) is classified as a chronic mental condition, yet the stigma of addiction is so severe that people with SUD are often excluded from the national conversation on mental health. All mental health conditions, including addiction, must be a priority for policymakers. We need real action to end the national mental health crisis and bring solutions to people in need — in ways that are realistic, accessible, and reliable.

Read more on our Medium Channel.

By Charles Ingoglia, MSW and President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health

Do you remember the moment you realized that timely access to mental health and addiction services is important? It’s different for all of us. For some, it’s the first time you try to help a family member, a friend, a colleague, or yourself navigate a mental health or addiction crisis. Unfortunately, many Americans discover that gaining access to care can be a challenge.

Read more on our Medium channel.

Our coalition, which is 40 members strong and growing, has united behind a common policy platform outlining some of the most urgent steps our country must take on these issues. Read more on our Medium channel.

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