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Policy and Advocacy

Federal Policy:  Throughout MHA’s 106 year history, we have been the only organization to prioritize the individual over interest groups as we advocate for legislation that affects the lives of people with mental health conditions and their families. That priority continues today, at a time when we focus on prevention, early identification and intervention, access to integrated care, and insurance parity for people with mental health conditions. Our expert staff and Public Policy Committee members produce well-researched policy statements on a wide range of issues – from civil liberties to children’s mental health – for public use. We work with policymakers to advance federal legislation, regulations, and agency activities that promote these priorities and position statements.

State Policy: MHA is the national headquarters for a network of more than 200 affiliates around the country. Our affiliates work with state and local policymakers to develop and pass laws, regulations, and policies to promote mental health. MHA and our affiliates meet through the Regional Policy council to exchange ideas about best practices and barriers to regional, state, and local policy efforts and agency activities. Our state advocacy priorities include Medicaid expansion, integrating primary and mental health care services, and building peer supports, including recovery-oriented curricula. A full list of our priorities can be found in the Policy & Advocacy section of our website. 

Regional Policy Council: Health care reform has been at the forefront of state and federal policy in recent years. The MHA Regional Policy Council (RPC) produces a constructive partnership with our affiliates and other stakeholders to initiate, advocate for, and implement federal and state policies that positively affect people living with mental health and substance use conditions. In 2014, the RPC focused on implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). MHA dove deeply into issues of network adequacy, treatment and medication access, criminal justice and violence prevention, and development of the peer workforce.

In 2015, we are focused on public policies to advance prevention, screening and early identification, and earlier interventions to promote recovery “Before Stage 4” in the chronic disease process. The RPC will develop a National Legislative Agenda that identifies state policy initiatives to help advocates and policymakers work together to ensure that access to adequate mental health care is possible. We will also develop a toolkit to help MHA affiliates and other interested stakeholders be successful in their state advocacy efforts. Additionally, the RPC will issue reports on critical mental health issues related to the ACA and MHPAEA as they are brought forth.

Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America Report: MHA’s first annual Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in the Nation report identifies a common set of data indicators for mental health that gives a more complete picture of mental health status in America. This report established a baseline from which we can document the successes and failures of both federal and state initiatives aimed at implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Each year, the report will highlight a timely issue. 

National Advocacy Day:  Ensuring people with mental health conditions are heard, MHA hosts a Capitol Hill Day each year to bring advocates to Congress to meet with the key decision-makers. Beginning with an in-depth training session on how to advocate to members of Congress, the day culminates with in-person visits to federal legislators on Capitol Hill. Since 2012, MHA advocates have joined with the National Council for Community Behavioral Health for Hill Day. In 2015, Capitol Hill Day will occur on June 2 and 3, in conjunction with the MHA Annual Conference.

Education & Outreach

MHA Screening: Understanding your mental health and learning about where you are in your mental health is essential in ensuring you stay mentally healthy. One of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take an anonymous screen. MHA has online screening tools for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol and substance use, early psychosis, work health, as well as screenings that are youth-focused and parent-focused. After completing their screening, individuals receive immediate results, education, resources and linkage to affiliates. Along with the results of their screens, individuals provide MHA with valuable demographic and survey responses that allow us to further support our mental health policy and education efforts.

To date, depression screens account for more than half of the screens completed. Of all respondents, 67 percent scored moderate to severe for any of the conditions, and of those, 65 percent report they had never been diagnosed. These statistics demonstrate the need to promote early education and intervention. As expands, MHA will continue to explore ways to respond to the needs of screeners by adding public education and treatment information in collaboration with national partners. Our goal is to get every American screened and aware of their mental health as a way to promote recovery and reduce the time of untreated mental health problems.

May Is Mental Health Month:  Created in the 1950s, May is Mental Health Month is a month long education campaign to educate the general public about mental health, mental wellness and the ways they can keep their minds healthy. In 2014, this program reached over 6.9 million people through our network’s marketing and distribution efforts, and we anticipate an even broader reach in 2015 due to an increase in the quality of marketing and the development of new resource materials. The 2015 May is Mental Health Month toolkit included fact sheets, a mental health tips calendar, posters, graphics and infographics, and sample press releases, newspaper articles, and a logic model for our affiliates to track their efforts and outcomes. The goal of this public education campaign is to provide updated, accurate resources for the general public to learn about mental health, and for advocates to promote the services that they provide in their local communities.

Publications: Mental Health America regularly produces brochures and fact sheets designed to educate different audiences on signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, tips to stay healthy, and ways to help loved ones. Additionally, MHA produces white papers on various mental health topics and our annual report, Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in the America. These materials are available on our website,, and can also be purchased in print from our online store.

MHA Annual Conference: MHA's Annual Conference brings together affiliates, consumers, providers, family members and advocates from across the country to talk about important and emerging mental health issues. The 2015 Annual Conference, entitled Intervention and Innovation Before Stage 4, was held June 3-5, 2015 in Alexandria, Virginia. The event included several high level plenary sessions, keynote speeches, breakout sessions, and our 2nd Annual Innovation Nation that highlights pioneering programs on the local level. Each year, MHA’s conference brings together advocates, educators, researchers, business and community leaders, Members of Congress and the Administration, and health professionals from across the country. Past speakers include Tipper Gore, Rosalynn Carter, Glenn Close, George Stephanopoulos, Sanjay Gupta, and entertainer Demi Lovato.

Clifford Beers Society: The Clifford Beers Society connects leaders within the national mental health advocacy community who share a belief that we must all fight to improve conditions for those affected by mental health disorders. Members are committed to prevention for all, early identification and intervention for those at risk, and comprehensive integrated health and behavioral services with recovery as the goal.

Back to School and Back to Campus: MHA’s Back to School and Back to Campus webpages provide students and parents with resources to deal with many of the challenges that come along with a new school year – including stress, homesickness, and substance abuse. On the Back to School webpages, the public can find information on starting conversations with their children or peers about mental health needs and finding help for students of all ages. Additionally, MHA is conducting surveys about bullying to understand the perspectives of students and parents. 

The MHA #B4Stage4 News Program: In a unique communication partnership, Mental Health America (MHA), ITN Productions and ABC’s Lincoln Square Productions are partnering to produce a news and current affairs-style program to examine the current state of mental health in America, how to improve mental health services, and the steps needed to better understand conditions in order to identify them sooner. ‘#B4Stage4’ is an in-depth, online program specifically aimed at those working to improve mental health across the nation. It looks at the challenges facing the country and explores how to raise the profile of screening, ensuring there is a personalized pathway for all patients and continued support and understanding in managing any condition.

Presented from ABC’s Lincoln Square Studios by Page Hopkins, the news-style piece combines key industry interviews and news-style reports with sponsored editorial profiles of some of the leading organizations in the sector. ‘#B4Stage4’ was screened for the first time at the MHA Annual Conference in June 2015. The program will then form part of an extensive online communications campaign that includes medical organizations, associations, healthcare providers, health systems, and other organized systems of care; as well as journalists, writers and bloggers in the sector.

Mental Health in the Media:  Mental Health America is changing the way that the media talks about mental health. Mental health conditions affect one in five adults in the United States every year, and there should be more emphasis on early intervention to ensure that they can enjoy the highest quality of life possible. One of our main priorities is to encourage conversations about mental health and foster an environment free from stigma and discrimination. MHA proactively works to provide comprehensive, accurate information about mental health by cultivating media relationships and working to share mental health news via traditional and new media channels.

Information and Referral Services

It's My Life - Social Self-Directed Care:  Mental Health America staff members are piloting an innovative social inclusion project in Virginia providing social support and training to women with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. MHA has plans to train other organizations to provide these services in other areas of the country so that people living with schizophrenia and schizoaffective can become comfortable participating in the life of the community, in part by building and strengthening friendships. 

The MHA Network: With over 200 affiliates in 41 states, MHA is committed to bringing direct services and advocacy to communities around the country. MHA affiliates bring together mental health consumers, caregivers, advocates and service providers for collaboration and action to inform, support and enable mental wellness, and emphasize recovery from mental illness. They provide public education, information and referral, support groups, rehabilitation services as well as socialization and housing services to those confronting mental health problems and their loved ones. Affiliates provide family advocate services to parents of children with serious emotional disturbances, mentorship or peer support for adults recovering from mental illnesses, and professional education to those working in the mental health field. They also strive to influence public policy to assure access to fair and effective treatment for the millions of Americans suffering from mental health conditions. As the national organization, Mental Health America provides technical assistance and other resources to assist affiliates in their service efforts around their communities, ensuring that Before Stage 4 (#B4Stage4) efforts reach every area of the United States.

Consumer Advocacy: Mental Health America provides technical assistance to other community organizations, specifically consumer groups. MHA staff members advise these organizations on best practices, including how to form a nonprofit board of directors. Additionally, MHA on an ongoing basis releases white papers to help consumer advocates in their work. 

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