Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) announced her appointment as vice-chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Napolitano will participate in a briefing on the scope of mental health in America, hosted by the task force on Tuesday, January 22.
"I am honored to serve as a vice-chair on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force." Napolitano said. "Mental health is a critical component to the discussion, and we must work together to ensure that those in need of mental health services do not fall through the cracks. We must also increase early prevention and intervention services to address the mental health shortfalls that undermine the well-being and safety of our future leaders, our youth."
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi named Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5) chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in December, 2012. Thompson appointed Napolitano and 11 of her colleagues to serve as vice-chairs.
"The members of our task force have an extensive range of expertise, come from diverse backgrounds and will each bring fresh and different ideas to the table," said Thompson. "Working together, we can put policies in place that reduce and prevent gun violence while also protecting law-abiding individuals' 2nd Amendment right to own firearms."
Over the next few weeks, the task force will meet with and hear from law enforcement officers, gun owners and sportsmen groups, gun manufactures and gun retailers, mental health experts, gun violence prevention groups, members of the entertainment industry, education organizations and other experts and stakeholders. The task force is focused on developing a comprehensive set of policy proposals to reduce and prevent gun violence.
Napolitano, Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, submitted her recommendations to the task force:
· Mental Health in Schools Act: This legislation, sponsored by Napolitano, would provide on-site mental health services in schools. The legislation calls for the authorization of $200 million dollars for competitive grants to establish these programs.
· Mental Health Parity: Napolitano is working to lead the request for the Administration to release the final rule needed to implement Mental Health Parity. The final rule would set the guidelines needed to ensure that insurance companies are not discriminating against those with a mental illness.
· Secure funding for mental health, with special focus on programs that serve military and veterans: With the current economic climate, funding for mental healthcare has been negatively affected.
· Mental Health Workforce: Nationally, there is a limited number of mental health professionals, which has contributed to the current mental health crisis that enables access to resources and services, especially in rural areas and for those mental health professionals who work with children, youth, military, and veterans.
· Mental Health and Media: Napolitano strongly believes that more needs to be done to properly educate the media on how to address the topic of mental health. By collaborating efforts both from media and mental health professionals, the public can be properly informed about mental health, learn how to access resources and services, rid the stigma associated with mental illness, and create an environment that is conducive to healthy help seeking behaviors.
Napolitano is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, and she has been active in securing mental health parity in health insurance and raising the profile of mental health in Congress. She began funding mental health services for schools in her congressional district in 2001. The program has since expanded to 15 schools and serves as a pilot program for the Mental Health in Schools Act.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).