By Happy Carlock
That’s how long the Senate has to pass mental health reform before heading out the door to campaign. That may seem like enough time to rally support and get Senate leadership to bring S. 2680 to the floor for a vote—but with Election Day on the horizon and countless issues competing for the 114th Congress’s attention in its final weeks, we have no time to lose.
In July, we witnessed a milestone in the history of mental health in America. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2646, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016,” with a 422-2 vote. With those 422 “ayes,” the House said yes to enhancing crisis response services, supporting the mental health workforce and enforcing the federal mental health insurance parity law.
Now it’s the Senate’s turn to act. The Senate is well on its way to passing a similar piece of legislation, the “Mental Health Reform Act of 2016” (S. 2680). This bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), promotes suicide prevention, as well as crisis response services, early intervention and integration of health and mental health care.
S. 2680 has broad support from diverse perspectives within the mental health community. It truly represents a consensus on positive steps toward improving mental health care in America. And the hardest part is over: The Senate already unanimously passed S. 2680 out of committee, which means getting the bill to a floor vote should be seamless.
But S. 2680 faces hurdles from Senate leadership. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has delayed bringing the bill to a vote despite its widespread approval. Meanwhile, nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide each year. The Senate has the opportunity to lower that number by passing legislation that would infuse resources into suicide prevention measures across the country.
With our grassroots power, NAMI got the House to bring mental health reform to a vote. We have the ability to do it again—this time in the Senate. But with just a few short weeks left for the Senate to act, time is of the essence.
One voice can make a difference. Thousands of voices create a movement. All it takes is one phone call, one in-person meeting with your Senator, one targeted tweet at the Senate leadership to make your voice heard alongside tens of thousands of other NAMI members.
At NAMI, we don’t wait for change to happen; we make it happen. That's why this Friday, September 2nd, we're having a National Call-In Day. Join us, and take two minutes out of your day to call your senators and tell them to demand a vote on S. 2680 now.
Call (202) 224-3121
Enter your zip code
Here's our suggested message: "As a constituent of the Senator’s, I would like him/her to demand a vote on S. 2680, the Mental Health Reform Act. The House passed Mental Health Reform 422-2. The Senate should act. There is a mental health crisis in this country. This bill will help. Thank you."
It is time for the Senate to stop treating mental health reform as a political issue and treat it as the crucial and timely public health issue that it is.
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