U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), member of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, introduced new legislation to provide resources and support to those requiring mental health aid by creating a National Peer Support Warmline under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address rising mental health concerns. The Peer Assisted Relief Through Networks of Empathetic Resources and Supports (PARTNERS) Act was inspired by a conversation Mucarsel-Powell had with gun violence survivors who expressed the need for more accessible mental health resources.
The group, which consisted of Parkland survivors, parents who lost children to gun violence, and Mucarsel-Powell, whose father was shot and killed when she was 24 years old, developed the idea for a single, toll-free telephone number for people across the United States to call when experiencing mental health distress. Under the PARTNERS Act, callers would be connected to a trained peer to receive timely empathetic support and resource referrals.
“I was inspired to introduce this legislation by a group of gun violence survivors who worked with me to identify ways to help families cope with unimaginable loss. Many expressed the need for timely mental health support, but shared the frustration they felt when they were told they’d need to wait weeks for the next available appointment. Today, as we all face the health and economic consequences of this pandemic, we need accessible mental health resources more than ever – regardless of your income, insurance status, or where you live,” said Mucarsel-Powell. “Whether you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, the emotional burn out of social distancing and this new way of life, or struggling with everyday feelings of distress, you deserve a place to go to talk to someone and find the help you need. I will do everything in my power to get this bill passed and signed by the president so our community has one more place to go to seek help.”
“As we all face the health and economic consequences of this pandemic, we need accessible mental health resources more than ever – regardless of your income, insurance status, or where you live.”
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
A CDC report found that Americans are experiencing more coronavirus-related mental health issues than people in other countries. The CDC survey data reported that nearly 41% of respondents are struggling with mental health issues stemming from the pandemic.
“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention applauds Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell for her leadership to increase access to a new system of peer support warmlines,” said American Foundation for Suicide Prevention CEO Robert Gebbia. “This centralized warmline network will increase access to life-saving resources and we urge swift passage of this important legislation.”
“The PARTNERS Act and a National Peer Support Warm Line is needed now more than ever. The PARTNERS Act will save lives and money while also providing meaningful employment for those who were previously incapacitated by their mental health issues and are returning to or joining the workforce,” said Mark Salazar, Executive Director of Mental Health America. “It is a preventative service for individuals to turn to before accessing more expensive and costly services like Emergency Departments, Urgent Cares, or 9-1-1. The PARTNERS Act will expand the availability of this life saving service to every resident of the United States.”
“The American Psychological Association commends Rep. Mucarsel-Powell’s tireless work to address the mental and behavioral health issues impacting so many in our communities,” said Katherine B. McGuire, APA’s Chief Advocacy Officer. “The establishment of a centralized network of peer support warmlines and the incorporation of evidence-based trainings will play a crucial role in destigmatizing mental health and ending social isolation for those who are struggling both in rural and urban communities. This important legislation is desperately needed to improve the lives of countless Americans.”
A one pager on the PARTNERS Act can be found here.
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