SacBee: Padilla establishes mental health caucus

By Gillian Brassil

California Sen. Alex Padilla helped launch the Senate’s first Mental Health Caucus Tuesday for crafting bipartisan solutions to what U.S. Surgeons General have called a mental health crisis.

“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,” said Laurel Stine, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The caucus is also a forum for raising awareness of and destigmatizing mental health issues. Top priorities will be to improve prevention and early intervention and to bolster response services, mental health professionals and evidence-based treatment.

“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,” Padilla said. “Now we need to ensure there are resources ready to get Americans the help that they need.”

Increasing support for mental health has been one of Padilla’s top issues. This year, he introduced three bills for improving mental health care of military children, Latinos and farm workers.

Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa joined Democrats Padilla and Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota to create the caucus.

Democratic members include Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Republicans include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine.

Congress over the past few years has pushed bipartisan legislation for mental health care, including creation of a 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

“Mental health is the bipartisan issue of our time, and it is inspiring to see the establishment of the bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus,” National Alliance on Mental Illness Chief Executive Officer Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., said in a statement.

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