05/12/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/12/2021 16:04
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, H.R. 721, the Mental Health Services for Students Act, authored by Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming support by a vote of 349 to 74.
'This is a critical step toward our goal of ensuring every student in America, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or ZIP code, has access to life-saving mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,' Napolitano said. 'In passing this legislation during Mental Health Awareness Month we are tackling two of the biggest obstacles to care that existed long before COVID--stigma and lack of funding--and sending a resounding message from the halls of Congress that it is always okay to ask for help. I am exceedingly grateful to my constituents, House colleagues, and the countless mental health professionals and advocates who contributed toward today's passage, giving youth mental health the attention it has long needed and deserves.'
H.R. 721, which Napolitano sponsored in the previous seven Congresses, is coauthored by Rep. John Katko (R-NY-24). The bill creates a total of $130 million in grant funding for schools across the country to partner with local mental health professionals to establish comprehensive mental health services for students. This proposal educates the entire school community-from students and their families, to teachers, administrators, and support personnel-on the warning signs and symptoms of mental illness to help identify and treat mental health issues before they escalate.
Napolitano secured federal funds in 2001 to establish a mental health services for students pilot program, administered by local nonprofit, Pacific Clinics. The program began in four schools and has now expanded to 35 schools throughout Los Angeles County, including the San Gabriel Valley, and serves as a model for H.R. 721. The bill has 86 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of 50 mental health organizations and teacher unions.
The House today also passed H.R. 2981, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act and H.R. 1475, the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act. Napolitano was one of the main Democratic cosponsors of H.R. 2981, which would ensure high-quality services for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. H.R. 1475 would address mental health issues for youth, particular youth of color, and includes language from Napolitano's Mental Health for Latinos Act (H.R. 2529), legislation which directs SAMHSA to put together an education and outreach plan for all communities of color.
'As we continue to raise awareness throughout the month of May and work to advance additional mental health-related legislation, we urge the Senate to pass these vital bills without delay,' Napolitano concluded.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).