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Public Statements

Recognizing Children's Mental Health Awareness Day

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, which occurs each year during National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week.

* In 2004, the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health began designating the first full week of May as Children's Mental Health Awareness Week to promote the positive development of our youth. Additionally, since 2006, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Mental Health Services has declared one day during the week National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.

* On this special day, a distinguished coalition is gathering in Wisconsin. Groups like Wisconsin Family Ties, the Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health, Wisconsin United for Mental Health, the Supporting Families Together Association, and Wisconsin Public Broadcasting are joining with affected youth, their families, and others in our community. They stand together at the Madison Children's Museum to focus our attention on this important public health issue.

* In Wisconsin the statistics paint a startling picture. One out of every five children who appear healthy is, in fact, suffering from mental health problems. Children with mental illness and disabilities have a far greater likelihood of being suspended or expelled from school, abusing drugs or alcohol, or ending up in the juvenile justice system. In 2008, only 11 percent of Wisconsin children living with serious mental health disorders received any public mental health services, less than one third the rate for adults.

* However, not all hope is lost. At the federal level, the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes numerous provisions that will help diagnose, treat, and support children with mental illness and their families. For example, the law immediately eliminates pre-existing condition clauses for children. This will help ensure that more families can afford to seek treatment for their child and may do so without fear of losing their coverage.

* We must continue to pursue a course of action that works to not only identify and diagnose mental illness as early as possible, but also provide comprehensive treatment to those affected. The better we are able to serve the needs of our youth who suffer from mental illness, the sooner we can reduce long term costs associated with dropout rates, substance abuse, homelessness, and the justice system. We know that children with mental illness can live full and productive lives as long as we provide them with the support they need.

* In the 1800s, the color green was used to identify people who were labeled ``insane.'' Since then, the color has taken on a very different meaning, one that now signifies new life, new growth, and new beginnings. Today, I join with children, families, and supporters both in south central Wisconsin and across the nation in wearing the color green to show our support. Above all, I salute all those who are working to raise awareness of this crucial issue and hope today serves as a reminder that each one of us can and must do better to address children's mental health issues.

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