On this morning's "Washington Journal" on C-SPAN, Congressional Mental Health Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-38) and Rep. Tim Murphy (PA-18) discussed mental health issues in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Congress needs to act and act now to help avoid future sizable tragedies like the ones we have had these past several years." Napolitano said. "We need to educate the general public of mental health service availability and urge them to press Congress if no services are available in their communities."
The roundtable discussion allowed callers to voice their concerns regarding mental health services and ask the Co-Chairs questions as to what Congress intends to do.
"When it comes to the federal government, we need to be reviewing what we do for mental health," Murphy said. "Do we have enough funding in the areas that can help people get treatment, and is that being used effectively?"
Both Co-Chairs pledged to protect existing levels of funding for mental health from budget cuts and expressed hope that the discussion will continue weeks and months after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
"If you or a loved one feel you have a problem, ask for help," Napolitano said. "We must continue to de-stigmatize the issue of mental illness and encourage those suffering to seek assistance early on."
Napolitano has introduced the Mental Health in Schools Act (HR 751) in the past three congresses and plans to re-introduce it in the 113th Congress. She has also urged the Obama Administration to issue the final rule for the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to establish equal access to mental health and addiction recovery services. Last year, Napolitano wrote a letter urging House Republican and Democratic leadership to reject an appropriations bill (HR 3070) that included cuts to mental health and addiction services.
Since 2003, the Congressional Mental Health Caucus has held briefings with military personnel, mental health providers, and Members of Congress and their staff on various mental health issues, including veterans, depression, children, and trainings to recognize warning signs.