MHA Calls for National Action in Response to Newtown Tragedy | Mental Health America

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MHA Calls for National Action in Response to Newtown Tragedy

Mental Health America Calls for National Action in Response to Newtown Tragedy

Urges Leaders to Identify, Implement Solutions That Expand Capacity, Capabilities of Mental Health Programs and Services

Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (January 7, 2013)—Mental Health America today called on President Obama and Congress  to take action  in response to the Newtown tragedy by identifying and implementing solutions that expand the capacity and capabilities of the nation’s mental health programs and services.

In letters to the President and Members of Congress, the organization said it stands ready to work with policymakers and recommends that the Workgroup headed by Vice President Joe Biden consult with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental health and addictions experts, and those with “lived” experience in this discussion.

To begin a sustained recovery, Mental Health America (MHA) recommends Federal support and assistance to:

  • Restore the $4.6 billion for community mental health and addiction services: Funding for community mental health and substance use services has been cut by $4.6 billion since 2009 by states attempting to cope with the recession. Due to diminishing capacity, only a third of those with moderate mental illness, two-thirds of those with severe illness, and only one in a hundred of those with a substance use disorder ever receive appropriate services.  When care is provided, there is a gap of eight to ten years between first symptoms and first treatment. 
  • Order the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity Law:  This will improve access to care while making it more affordable. Mental health and substance abuse services must be fully integrated with quality medical care.  In order to meet the potential expanding service demand that comes with enhanced benefits, coverage, and awareness, there must be support to maintain and grow the professional and peer support workforce.
  • Create a public education, training, and screening campaign on mental illness and addictions and emphasize the value of treatment:  Few young people receive a single hour of education about mental illnesses or addictions, its signs or treatment.  Adding Mental Health First Aid, Emotional CPR to trainings for students, parents, teachers, employers, and community groups will help us all become more proficient in recognizing issues and supporting each other to get help.  We must teach people that recovery from mental illnesses or addictions is possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends routine mental health checkups for all adolescents and the Society of Adolescent Medicine, supports early identification of mental illness as a critical standard of care.
  • Enact the Mental Health in Schools Act (HR 750 in 112th Congress):  Research has demonstrated that prevention and early intervention strategies strengthen children’s and families’ mental health and resiliency, prevent or lessen the burden of illness, and help with the recovery from trauma. Further, teachers must be prepared to partner with parents and other caregivers on how to identify emotionally disturbed children early and to guide them into appropriate assessment, intervention, and support services.  Enacting the Mental Health in Schools Act is a step in the right direction and should be followed by appropriate legislation for intervening with children from zero to five years of age.

“We commend President Obama for creating a Workgroup to tackle this issue,” the letters state. “We urge a focus beyond gun accessibility and advocate for the presence of the mental health and recovery community in this discussion. MHA stands ready to work with President Obama and with the Congress and recommends that the Workgroup consult SAMHSA, mental health and addictions experts, and those with “lived” experience in this discussion.  Further cuts to mental health and addiction must be avoided in any fiscal or long-term budget negotiations in early 2013.

“The Newtown Tragedy and the overall gun violence in our society, call all of us to work as one to create lasting solutions that include mental wellness.   As an organization that has been working for over a century to make individuals and communities healthier, we call on you to take immediate action with us.

“Our Nation deserves nothing less.”

Mental Health America (, founded in 1909, is the nation’s leading community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our 240 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions—Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; Educating the public & providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.


500 Montgomery Street, Suite 820
 Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone (703) 684.7722

Toll Free (800) 969.6642

Fax (703) 684.5968

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