U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, author of the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act, joined President Obama, Vice President Biden, mental health advocates and others at the White House National Conference on Mental Health. With today's renewed focus on mental health issues in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and too many others like it, the conference brought together people from across the country, including mental health experts, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, members of Congress, representatives from local governments and individuals who have struggled with mental health problems to discuss how we can all work together to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health conditions recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance and treatment.
Studies show that individuals with a serious mental illness are actually more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator. However, there are too many times when lack of diagnosis and effective treatment has led to horrible tragedies.
"Today's forum is another step toward strengthening America's mental health services and making mental health a priority," said Stabenow. "Along with reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, we need to ensure that treatment is available for those who need it. Our bipartisan bill can help ensure people living with mental illness can get the life changing care they need. I'm very thankful for the White House's efforts on this critical issue."
Earlier this year, Stabenow led a bipartisan group of senators to introduce The Excellence in Mental Health Act. Introduced in the wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, her legislation would improve quality standards and expand access to ensure more people can get the mental health care they need. One-third of those with mood disorders do not receive treatment and fewer than half of those with severe mental disorders receive treatment of any kind in a given year. With 22 veterans committing suicide every day and at least 25% of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing some type of mental health condition, Community Mental Health Centers are expected to soon be serving additional veterans.
The bill is cosponsored by a bipartisan gang of Senators including Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The bill is supported by over 50 mental health organizations, veterans organizations and law enforcement organizations including: the National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Behavioral Healthcare, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Give An Hour, among many others.