I want to start this Zen post with a note of thanks to Lisa Bernhardt, staff to the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education, Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate. Lisa took more than the time she had allotted (and likely more than she had available) to listen to my concerns about the Healthy Transitions Initiative as well as the needs of emerging adults with mental health challenges. I walked away from the meeting with a host of action steps swirling in my head, but I will narrow the internal chatter to two key points:
- This is a marathon -- not a sprint - and we need hard data to stay in the race
For those wanting the HTI grants put back in the budget based on one meeting - well, that's not going to happen. We have a massive and long overdue education campaign ahead of us. If the collective voice of children's mental health in Washington and in states, tribal nations and territories do not increase education opportunities with elected officials about a balanced approach to funding children's mental health efforts then we will likely see the continued slide in funding for comprehensive approaches to meeting the needs of youth with emotional challenges and their families. Many of you have sent in research articles, program descriptions and testimonials. We are compiling all of the information being received for distribution to elected officials. However, we need more hard data on the effectiveness of the type of innovation found in the Healthy Transitions Initiative. If you haven't done so already, send us what you have. Data rules folks.
- We need both national advocacy organization voices and community voices to speak on behalf of children and families
A unique aspect of the Children's Mental Health Network is that we are firm in our decision to not take federal money. This allows us to both celebrate and challenge decisions, actions and policies put forth by federal government freely. Most of the national advocacy organizations in Washington, DC have active federal government contracts and do amazing work on behalf of the full spectrum of individuals with emotional challenges and their families. These organizations (the National Federation of Families, Mental Health America, and NAMI, to name just a few) are critical to the long-standing effort to improve mental health services in America. We need them and the work they do, but we must recognize that on occasion they may not appear to be as vocal about issues that may put them in conflict with the work they are doing on a particular grant. This is absolutely appropriate, though at times frustrating to us. Instead of being frustrated about what a DC-based advocacy group focuses on, let’s look at it as a partnership - they do their part and we do ours. So, for the Network faithful, who are also loyal members of other advocacy organizations, let your leaders know that this issue is important. But don't stop there. Lend your unfettered voice of support for a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of young adults with mental health challenges through the Network. Read our earlier Morning Zen post to see how you can do that.
Okay Network faithful, our marching orders are clear. Educate, educate, educate. If you want to be more involved in our developing education campaign on the importance of a balanced approach to funding for young people with emotional challenges and their families then click here and say, "I want to get involved." Simple as that. And we will put you to work.
President & CEO
Children’s Mental Health Network