WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced the launch of their bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus. Amidst a national mental health crisis, the Senate Mental Health Caucus will serve as a forum for Senators to collaborate on and promote bipartisan legislation and solutions, hold events to raise awareness of critical mental health issues, and destigmatize mental health. The caucus will work to improve prevention and early intervention efforts, expand the country’s mental health professional workforce, enhance our nation’s crisis response services, and increase access to evidence-based mental health treatment and common-sense solutions for all Americans.
Daniel Gillison, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Laurel Stine, Vice President of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), joined the Senators in announcing the launch. U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are also members of the caucus.
“I believe that everyone should have access to quality mental health care, regardless of insurance, ZIP code, or age,” said Senator Smith. “Mental health care isn’t a partisan issue – it’s something that affects Americans in red states and blue states alike. Today’s launch represents a renewed commitment and focus to collaborate on bipartisan legislation and solutions. I’m looking forward to working alongside my colleagues to continue to tackle the mental health care crisis in this country.”
“Our nation has long faced mounting mental health challenges that have touched the lives of all Americans, but we know there are bipartisan solutions to address this crisis in reach,” said Senator Padilla. “People are finally beginning to realize the scale of our mental health crisis — and the wall of stigma that prevents too many from getting help is starting to come down. Now we need to ensure there are resources ready to get Americans the help that they need. I’m proud to announce this bipartisan caucus alongside Senators Tillis, Smith, and Ernst, so that we can come together to find help and solutions for the millions of Americans who may be suffering in silence.”
“Our country is experiencing a mental health crisis, from children to adolescents to older adults, and it’s past time for us to prioritize mental health care. That is why I have worked on a bipartisan basis to expand access to evidence-based mental health care for all Americans, including the creation of the 988 Suicide Hotline, to writing and passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that marked the largest investment in community-based mental health and substance use care in American history,” said Senator Tillis. “However the work is not done, and I am honored to be joining Senator Padilla in establishing the Senate Mental Health Caucus, where we can discuss, advocate for, and support the continued investment in mental health care. I am hopeful together we can work to raise awareness, expand education, and continue destigmatizing mental health care for Americans nationwide.”
“I’m honored to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to raise awareness and reduce stigma about mental health, so folks can receive the support they deserve. Together, we will work to improve care for mental health issues on behalf of our Iowa veterans, farmers, and families and improve the health of all Americans,” said Senator Ernst.
“Mental health is the bipartisan issue of our time, and it is inspiring to see the establishment of the bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus,” said NAMI Chief Executive Officer Daniel H. Gillison, Jr. “NAMI is grateful to Senators Padilla, Tillis, Ernst and Smith for their leadership on mental health. We’re excited to collaborate with the new caucus to build better lives for all people affected by mental health conditions.”
“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) thanks Senators Alex Padilla, Thom Tillis, Tina Smith, and Joni Ernst for their leadership in launching the bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “The launch of the Senate Mental Health Caucus comes at a critical time as our nation faces a mental health crisis that affects people across the lifespan, with suicide being the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. AFSP looks forward to working with the Caucus to raise awareness of mental health issues, promote bipartisan policy solutions, and help reduce stigma to improve mental health and prevent suicide.”
In recent years, Congress has worked on a bipartisan basis to implement crucial mental health services, including through establishing the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, permanently expanding the successful Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration program, expanding access to suicide prevention programs for veterans, and building out the infrastructure for mental health in K-12 school settings. Last year, Congress also took a historic step forward with the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which includes major investments in community-based mental health services. The Senate Mental Health Caucus will work to ensure those investments are effective and improve the lives of American families as they work to build on this historic bipartisan legislation.
As a member of the Senate Health and Education Committee, Senator Smith is leader in the fight to make mental health care more affordable and accessible. As part of the American Rescue Plan, Smith passed bipartisan provisions with Senator Murkowski to provide expanded access to community based mental health care and harm reduction services. She has also introduced a host of bipartisan legislation aimed at increasing mental health services for students, improving integrated care, increasing access to tele-mental health, and investing in the mental health workforce. Last year, she introduced the Medicaid Bump Act to expand access to mental health services for low-income families and children, older adults and people living with disabilities. Smith has also spoken on the Senate floor and regularly shares her story about her personal experience with depression in an effort to destigmatize talking about mental health.
The full mission statement of the Senate Mental Health Caucus is available here.
A recording of the press conference is available here.
Additional photos from the press conference are available here.