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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Praises Committee Passage of Bipartisan Mental Health Legislation

Washington D.C. – Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the committee. Baldwin praised her colleagues for their support of the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2013 in today’s HELP Committee executive session. Baldwin is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan bill with Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Al Franken (D-MN).

“I have long been a strong supporter of increased access to mental health services as well as mental health parity – to ensure insurance policies cover mental illness in the same way they cover physical illness,” Baldwin said. “I’m proud to have worked across party lines to strengthen and improve awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions, especially among our young people. These targeted improvements will help assist our state and local communities in addressing the mental health needs of Wisconsin citizens.”

The Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act reauthorizes and improves programs administered by both the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services related to awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions, and the promotion of linkages to appropriate services for children and youth.  The bill focuses on school settings by promoting school-wide prevention through the development of positive behavioral supports and encouraging school-based mental health partnerships.  The bill also focuses on suicide prevention, helping children recover from traumatic events, mental health awareness for teachers and other individuals, and assessing barriers to integrating behavioral health and primary care. This bipartisan legislation makes targeted improvements designed to advance federal efforts to assist states and local communities in addressing the mental health needs of their citizens.

“Early intervention programs and partnerships for mental health care are essential to young people and adults coping with mental illness,” says Kelly Barton, vice president for clinical operations at Gundersen Lutheran Health System. “Mental illness is a disease like any other and deserves the same level of attention and high-quality care. Gundersen Lutheran supports this effort to improve access to mental health care and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.”

As a member of the House of Representatives, Baldwin supported the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010. The MHPAEA works to ensure that when coverage for mental health and substance use conditions is provided, it is generally comparable to coverage for medical and surgical care. The ACA builds on the MHPAEA by requiring coverage of mental health and substance use disorder benefits for millions of Americans in the individual and small group markets who currently lack these benefits, and expanding parity requirements to apply to millions of Americans whose coverage did not previously comply with those requirements.

The Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act passed today in the HELP Committee and will build on these efforts to strengthen mental health services in Wisconsin.