National Council Honors Senators, Congressmen as Legislators of the Year

June 26, 2012

Press release from the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, June 26, 2012

Washington, DC, June 26, 2012—To recognize his exemplary leadership on behalf of people with mental health and substance use disorders, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council) honored Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) with its Behavioral Health Champion award. During a ceremony yesterday evening, the National Council also recognized four other members of Congress as Legislators of the Year — Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-PA), Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Over his 15 years in the United States Senate, Sen. Jack Reed has become a nationally recognized leader on behalf of people with mental illness and addictions. Sen. Reed has consistently worked to strengthen and expand the behavioral health safety net, most recently by introducing the Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 2257) with Senator Debbie Stabenow. The Excellence Act would establish parity in the nation’s healthcare safety net by establishing new standards for Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Centers and making these entities eligible for a variety of federal benefits to support the critical services they provide.

Sen. Reed has also been a consistent supporter of the Community Mental Health Services Improvement Act (S. 2256), which provides funds for the construction or modernization of community mental health and addiction treatment facilities. He has been a longtime supporter of the Behavioral Health IT Act (S. 539). As a member of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Reed has also worked on a bipartisan basis to prevent youth suicide by introducing the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2011. This legislation would improve access to counseling for at-risk teens and promote the development of statewide suicide early intervention and prevention strategies.

“All of the legislators honored today have done yeoman’s work to help people with mental illnesses and addiction disorders live full and productive lives,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council. “They’ve worked tirelessly to keep in place the nation’s mental health safety net that supports some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Four U.S. Senators and Congressmen were named Legislators of the Year for their efforts to raise awareness of the critical need for better health coverage for mental health and addiction treatments. Honorees include:

Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-PA) for leadership of efforts to ensure that individuals with mental health and substance use disorders receive appropriate care; support for the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 and the Primary Care-Behavioral Health Integration federal grant program; his fight to ensure the protection of the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and his support for veterans’ access to mental health services.

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) for his ardent support for public policies and initiatives to promote the health and wellbeing of people with mental illness and addictions; and his introduction of an amendment to the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which doubled the funding for AmeriCorps programs that serve people with disabilities.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) for her advocacy for easily accessible community mental healthcare for veterans; support for resources to prevent suicide among veterans; and co-sponsorship of the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act, which would extend federal incentive payments for health information technology to mental health and substance abuse facilities and providers.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) for helping to ensure passage of the 2008 Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act, which ensured that millions of Americans would not be subject to discriminatory restrictions on mental health and addiction treatment benefits; advocating for expanded access to healthcare services and an expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and voting against attempts to repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which supports a variety of important integrated health initiatives.

During the National Council’s 8th Annual Public Policy Institute and Hill Day today, more than 550 mental health advocates — including persons with mental and addictions disorders, families, community members and healthcare providers — are meeting with their members of Congress to ask for support to improve the lives of people with mental illness and addiction disorders.

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