Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., left, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., arrive for more bipartisan talks on how to rein in gun violence, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On Jan. 21, a bipartisan group of Senators announced the details of a gun-violence prevention package that also commits almost $15 billion over the coming years to funding mental health services. Leading mental health advocates are praising the proposed legislation. Here’s a sample of their reactions:

Bill Smith, founder of Inseparable, advocacy group working to improve mental health care policy

“We’ve never seen commitments this consequential for youth mental health before. Even though there’s a lot more to do, this really is a watershed moment in support of school mental health and the well-being of children. This legislation marks a turning point and, if enacted, will make a difference in the lives of countless children, as well as their parents, teachers, and their communities.”

Daniel H. Gillison Jr., chief executive officer, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

“Our country is in the midst of a mental health crisis, and our children are particularly impacted. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will expand mental health resources in schools and increase the availability of mental health care across the country. When paired with the strong bipartisan mental health packages already under consideration in Congress, we can turn the tide on our country’s mental health crisis.

“At the same time, we must avoid conflating mental illness with gun violence. People with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and pointing to mental illness as the cause of gun violence perpetuates discrimination and stigma that discourages people from seeking help. We must be cautious in how we discuss and address the causes of gun violence. We should be making mental health investments because it is the right thing to do – not because it will have a tangible impact on mass shootings.”

Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing

“If passed, this bill will forever change how people access mental health and substance use treatment in their communities. Expanding Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) nationwide is transformational and will dramatically expand access to comprehensive and lifesaving services while helping support and grow the behavioral health workforce. 

“Increased funding for mental health awareness training programs and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will help save lives and provide much needed support to strengthen the capacity of our crisis care system. This is especially critical as people nationwide will soon be able to access the Lifeline more easily through a new three-digit dialing code, 988. We applaud this bipartisan effort to expand access to lifesaving mental health and substance use services, and we encourage Congress to pass it as swiftly as possible.” 

Andy Keller, President and chief executive officer, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute

At a time when far too many of our children and youth are facing a mental health crisis, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act represents the single largest investment in community-based mental health treatment in American history. The resources for schools and communities included in this Act, in combination with the bipartisan mental health packages already being considered in the House and Senate, will provide unprecedented tools to reach children across the nation with the care they need when they need it.

Rob Waters

Rob Waters, the founding editor of MindSite News, is an award-winning health and mental health journalist and contributing writer to Health Affairs. Waters has worked as a staff reporter or editor at Bloomberg...