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Senate Committee Approves Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act

From the National Council:

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) voted to approve the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act (S.689). This bipartisan legislation reauthorizes and improves federal programs related to awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions. It includes language from the Mental Health First Aid Act (S. 153), one of the National Council’s legislative priorities, which authorizes funding for grants to train Americans in the signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions and how to reach out to someone experiencing a crisis (see more details below).

S. 689 was cosponsored by HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Additional cosponsors of the legislation include HELP Committee Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Pat Roberts (R-OH), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), and Mark Kirk (R-IL). Earlier this year, the Committee held a hearing to assess the state of America's mental health care system and to discuss ways to improve access to services for those who need assistance.

Senate leaders are still assessing when and how the bill will be brought before the full Senate for a vote. There is currently no companion legislation to S. 689 in the House.

The National Council was disappointed that the Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 264) was not included in the HELP Committee legislation. We are working with the bill’s sponsors to determine an alternate course of action to move this important legislation forward.

Details of the Mental Illness Awareness and Improvement Act
The first section of the bill, which covers education programs, would encourage development of school-wide prevention programs. These include “positive behavioral interventions” to create positive conditions for learning in schools, as well as identification of students in need of support. The legislation would also modify use of certain funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to include promotion of school-based mental health programs and other approaches designed to improve learning environments in schools.

The second part of the bill covers health programs. Section 202 reauthorizes certain grants to states under the Public Health Service Act, allowing them to be used for grants to states, political subdivisions of states, Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and nonprofit private entities to train teachers, appropriate school personnel, emergency services personnel, and others to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, to become familiar with resources in the community for individuals with mental illnesses, and for the purpose of the safe de-escalation of crisis situations involving individuals with mental illness. This section was modeled after the Mental Health First Aid Act, introduced by Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and 13 bipartisan cosponsors with the strong support of the National Council.

Other healthcare provisions of the bill include:

  • Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization: updates the use of funds to allow for the education of students, families, faculty, and staff to increase awareness and training to respond effectively to students with mental health and substance use disorders, to provide outreach to administer voluntary screenings and assessments to students, and to enhance networks with health care providers who treat mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Children’s Recovery from Trauma: reauthorizes the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI); encourages the collaboration between NCTSI and HHS to disseminate evidence-based and trauma-informed interventions, treatments, and other resources to appropriate stakeholders.
  • Assessing Barriers to Behavioral Health Integration: requires a GAO report on the federal requirements impacting access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment related to integration with primary care, administrative and regulatory issues, quality measurement and accountability, and data sharing.
  • Improving Education and Awareness of Treatments for Opioid Use Disorders: directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to promote the education and awareness of providers, patients, and other stakeholders with respect to Food and Drug Administration-approved products to treat opioid use disorders.
  • Examining Mental Health Care for Children: requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report on the use of mental health services for children, including how children obtain care, the tools and assessments available for children, and the use of psychotropic medications among children.
  • Evidence-Based Practices for Older Adults: encourages the Secretary to disseminate information and provide technical assistance on evidence-based practices for mental health and substance use disorders in older adults.

Biden’s Gun Control Task Force Urged to Make Access to Mental Health Care Easier

For more information contact Meena Dayak, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 301.602.8474.

Washington DC, Jan. 9, 2013—Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, today met with Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun control legislation to request support for a legislative agenda that will dramatically increase access to mental health services in the United States. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder were at the meeting.

Rosenberg urged the task force to take action to increase our nation’s ability to provide timely, high-quality mental health and addictions services to individuals in need by expanding opportunities for public education about mental illness and increasing the behavioral health system’s capacity to serve people desperately needing care.

The National Council urged support to allow Mental Health First Aid to be offered in every school district and college campus across the U.S. Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that can help communities understand mental illnesses, seek timely intervention, and save lives. The core program, delivered to more than 80,000 people across the country through a network of 2,500+ instructors, has already saved lives and brought hope to many. The youth version of Mental Health First Aid has just launched, providing an ideal forum to engage communities around mental illness among young people — and show neighbors, teachers, parents, and caring citizens how to help a child or teen in crisis or who is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem.

“Even when friends and family of someone who appears to be developing mental illness can tell that something is amiss, they may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment. Mental Health First Aid can help overcome these barriers and connect people to care,” observed Rosenberg.

Support has been growing on the legislative front for widespread Mental Health First Aid training for people of all ages. U.S. Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ), who survived the Tucson shooting last year that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, sent a letter on Jan. 7 to Vice President Biden calling on the gun control task force to include the Mental Health First Aid Act (HR 5996) in its recommendations to Congress. The bill would provide the training to teachers, students, firefighters, police, emergency service workers and others in communities nationwide.

Rosenberg asked for Biden’s support in advancing the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which would provide a secure, steady funding stream for community-based mental health and addictions services provided by qualified organizations, to be designated as Federally Qualified Behavioral Health Centers.

“Now is the time to bolster access to mental health care and improve public safety for all Americans. The Excellence in Mental Health Act will enhance Medicaid funding for organizations, clinics, and health centers that offer community-based treatment and support for millions of low-income and vulnerable people with mental health and addiction disorders. I commend the National Council for their continued advocacy on this important issue,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) who introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act in Congress.

The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with our 2,000 member organizations, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than 8 million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. The National Council also pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained more than 80,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care and treatment in their communities. More at

Sandy Support & Counseling Project

Where you affected by Hurricane Sandy? Are you feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Preferred Behavioral Health has counselors available to help with your specific needs following Hurricane Sandy. The Sandy Support & Counseling Project offers brief individual services, groups, psychiatric consultation, or longer term counseling services. We also have speakers available to meet with your organizations or interest groups to discuss coping skills, stress management, and community resources. Services will be provided at no cost to the participant.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call: 732-458-1700 ext.7147

This program is jointly funded by a grant the Robin Hood Foundation and the PBH Foundation.

Job Fair: January 22, 2013

Preferred Behavioral Health is recruiting Fee for Service Clinicians. We offer flexible schedules Monday-Saturday and Per-Diem work. Rates $16.00 - $60.00/hour based on position, experience and credentials. Clinical Supervision provided as needed.

  • LPC, LAC
  • Ph.D, Psy.D

Bilingual (English-Spanish) is a plus. Salary and requirements vary with each position.

Please bring originals of the following:

  • Resume
  • 2 forms of ID (i.e. Driver’s License, Social Security Card or passport)
  • 3-4 professional references Highest degree/diploma
  • If applicable: Professional certification or license List of affiliated insurance panels NPI #

When:  Tuesday, January 22, 2013 from 12:30pm - 6:30pm* 

*must register by 12:30pm & 6 :30pm for first or last interview

Where:  Preferred Behavioral Health Training Center (The suite next to General Floor)
725 Airport Road
Lakewood, NJ 08701


Please RSVP today.

Walk-ins also welcome!


For information or to schedule an appointment contact:
Chanalee Cohen
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(T) 732-367-4700 x 7121
(F) 732-364-2253

PBH is an EOE

President Obama Calls for Mental Health Reforms in Gun Violence Proposal

Via The National Council:

New resources would be directed to mental health treatment, workforce training, and public education under a series of proposals unveiled Wednesday by President Obama. Among these proposals is a recommendation for teachers and other adults who interact with students to be trained in Mental Health First Aid.

President Obama acknowledged in his statement that “someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.” His new mental health proposals seek to expand access to treatment, bolster the mental health workforce, and ensure coverage of mental health services in insurance policies. They include:

  • Establishing a new initiative called Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which would provide Mental Health First Aid training for teachers and make sure students with signs of mental illness get referred to treatment;
  • Supporting innovative state-based strategies for assisting transition-age young people (age 16-25) who have mental health or substance abuse conditions;
  • Helping schools address pervasive violence by offering students mental health services for trauma or anxiety, conflict resolution programs, and other school-based violence prevention strategies;
  • Providing funding to train more than 5,000 additional mental health professionals to serve students and young adults; and
  • Finalizing federal regulations outlining how the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act must be applied and clarifying that parity requirements apply to Medicaid plans under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

President Obama also called for the initiation of a national dialogue to increase understanding about mental health, directing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to launch conversations with consumers, members of the faith community, foundations, and school and business leaders.

The National Council praised the President’s mental health proposals in a statement by Linda Rosenberg:

Statement by Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health

“As part of his recommendations to protect our communities from gun violence, President Obama today rightly called for Mental Health First Aid training to help teachers and staff recognize the signs of mental health disorders in young people and find them appropriate care.

“The youth version of Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training program to help citizens identify mental health problems in young people, connect youth with care, and safely deescalate crisis situations if needed. The program, focusing on youth ages 12 to 25, provides an ideal forum to engage communities in discussing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, the prevalence of mental health disorders, the effectiveness of treatment and how to engage troubled young people in services.

“This groundbreaking training is critical for anyone who spends time with young people. The first onset of severe mental illness typically occurs in the late teens or early twenties. The symptoms of severe mental illness often emerge slowly over this period and can be difficult to detect without basic information on what to look for. Even when friends and family of someone who appears to be developing mental illness can tell that something is amiss, they may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment — which means that all too often, those in need of mental health services do not get them until it is too late. Research shows that the sooner people get help for mental health disorders, the more likely they are to have positive outcomes.

“The adult Mental Health First Aid program has already been delivered to nearly 100,000 Americans through a network of more than 2,500 instructors.

“We, of course, understand that no amount of training can guarantee horrific acts won’t occur, but being comfortable with openly talking about mental illness and engaging young adults and their families can increase the likelihood we may be able to help and intervene early.

“We are grateful to Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) and Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) who will shortly reintroduce Mental Health First Aid legislation in Congress to implement the President’s recommendations.

“We also encourage President Obama and Congress to consider other National Council policy proposals which will dramatically increase our nation’s ability to provide timely, high-quality mental health and addictions services to people in need. The proposals may be found on our web site at”

Congressional Committees to Hold Hearings on Mental Health System

In the wake of the President’s announcement, lawmakers in the House and Senate continued exploring potential proposals to address mental health in the U.S. National Council staff met with legislators and congressional staff to discuss our recommendations to the Vice President’s task force. Several committees are planning upcoming hearings on the U.S. mental healthcare system. On January 24, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on “Assessing the State of America’s Mental Health System.” The lead witnesses include SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde and NIMH Director Thomas Insel.

Legislation Introduced to Provide Grants for Mental Health First Aid Training; Ask Your Rep to Cosponsor

New legislation introduced by Congressman Ron Barber (D-AZ) would authorize $20 million in grants to states and communities to provide training in Mental Health First Aid.

The Mental Health First Aid Act (H.R. 274) is designed to increase public awareness about mental illness and addictions and how to reach out to a person experiencing one of these conditions. Mental Health First Aid teaches a five-step action plan to respond to a person in crisis and direct them to professional help.

Under the bill, grants would be provided to organizations for training emergency services personnel, police officers, teachers/school administrators, faith community leaders, primary care professionals, and students in Mental Health First Aid. This legislation builds upon a similar bill introduced in the 112th Congress by Congressman Jason Altmire (D-PA) and Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), with bipartisan support. That bill (H.R. 5996/S. 3325) focused on training faculty and staff at institutes of higher education.

Please help build support for the Mental Health First Aid Act by reaching out to your legislators and asking them to join Congressman Barber as cosponsors! Click here to write a message to your Representative.