Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) and Los Angeles Laker Metta World Peace, joined with other Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to call for the passage of H.R. 628, the Mental Health in Schools Act, and an open dialogue on mental health.
"I am a firm believer that the Mental Health in Schools Act will have a positive and lasting impact on our youth. That's why I'm here today," World Peace said. "I encourage anyone struggling or hurting to not be afraid to seek help, and we all must do better to increase mental health awareness in our cities, communities, and across the nation."
The Mental Health in Schools Act, which Napolitano introduced in the previous three Congresses, would create a competitive grant program that would allow the receiving school districts to hire mental health professionals for their district. By having qualified professionals working on-site in schools, they will be better able to provide prevention and early intervention services for students.
"Metta World Peace continues to be a steadfast champion for mental health and speaks to the issues that others are afraid to talk about," Napolitano said. "Personally, he knows that mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness and that everyone must work together to eliminate stigma. I and the mental health community applaud him for his courage in helping to reduce stigma by showing it is okay to seek help, and we will be continuing to work with him to ensure the best possible future for our youngsters."
World Peace is in Washington during the NBA All-Star Break to meet with Republicans, Democrats, and professionals from mental health organizations to elevate the issue and de-stigmatize mental health. Representatives Mike Thompson (CA-5), Ron Barber (AZ-2), and Bobby Scott (VA-3) joined Napolitano in a meeting with World Peace to discuss his advocacy and provide recommendations on how he can increase public awareness on mental health.
"Many thanks to Metta World Peace for taking time to share his story with others," said Thompson. "A big part of eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health is the willingness to talk about it. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and others to close the holes in our mental health system and make sure people get the care they need."
"Today I join Congresswoman Napolitano to call on Congress to pass the H.R. 628, the Mental Health in Schools Act," said Barber. "The bill allows much-needed prevention and early intervention by bringing mental health professionals to the students, in their schools. In addition to H.R. 628, I have introduced H.R. 274, the Mental Health First Aid Act with bipartisan support, which will provide training to help people identify and respond to signs of mental illness. I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to step forward and pass these important measures as soon as possible to help protect our communities and save lives."
"Growing up in a neighborhood with drugs and gun violence, Metta World Peace told us that his choice to see a psychologist was one of the factors that put him on a path to success in his life rather than a path to crime and prison," said Rep. Bobby Scott. "His personal story shows us the significant difference mental health services can make."
Napolitano reached out to Metta World Peace in 2010 after his on-court speech thanking his psychologist after winning the NBA championship, to assist and educate local school children about mental health. He has since visited several schools with Napolitano to talk about mental health, including trips to Eastmont Intermediate School in Montebello and Los Alisos Middle School in Norwalk, and has traveled to Washington, D.C. twice to help Napolitano promote the Mental Health in Schools Act.