Durbin Introduces Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act

Senator Joins Health Committee Chair and Ranking Member in support of bipartisan bill to improve programs to increase awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) introducing the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act. This bill would improve programs that help states and local communities in 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.


“Despite a renewed effort to address the challenges of mental illness, our communities remain largely unequipped to respond to the need for mental health awareness, screening, and services,” Durbin said. “Our legislation will make federal help available for states and local communities to expand their mental health services and outreach programs.”


Cosponsors of the legislation include Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Al Franken (D-MN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Mark Kirk (R-IL), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Roger Wicker (R-MI).


This bipartisan legislation updates programs that improve awareness of mental health conditions and supports individuals, schools, and health care providers in addressing mental health needs within their communities.


Some details on what the bill does:


  • Supports suicide prevention and intervention programs.
  • Helps train teachers and school personnel to recognize and understand mental illness.
  • Helps children recover from traumatic events, including support for national network of child trauma centers.
  • Requires a study of federal requirements that may get in the way of integrating mental health and substance use disorder treatment with primary care, as well as other barriers to care.
  • Directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to improve education and awareness among providers and patients of treatments for addiction to opioid painkillers.
  • Requires a Government Accountability Office study on mental health services for children, looking at both access and availability.
  • Encourages sharing of information on best practices for mental health and substance use disorders in older adults.
  • Encourages the improvement of the National Violent Death Reporting System, which currently collects data from 32 states.
  • Requires a government study on the status of recommendations to Department of Health and Human Services in 2007 report following Virginia Tech tragedy.


Click here for bill text and here for a detailed summary of the bill’s sections.