American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Thoughtful public policies can reduce the number of suicides

afspCFYM Note: Throughout Care for Your Mind, we provide a platform for mental health care advocates to present their perspectives and proposals for change, with an implicit invitation for interested community members to contact those organizations for more information and opportunities to get involved. Today, we launch a new category of posts: the Mental Health Advocate Profile. Rather than being specific to a discrete issue, the Profile allows CFYM to show an organization’s broader range of advocacy interests and concerns. We’ll start off with a look at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, taking note of their Capitol Hill visiting day in June 2013.

Any organizations seeking to be featured in a CFYM Mental Health Advocate Profile should submit information about current legislative interests and activities to info@careforyourmind.org. We welcome your submissions!

Priorities

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention maintains that thoughtful public policies can reduce the number of suicides. To that end, AFSP’s federal priorities focus on four areas:

  • Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Programs, which support youth suicide prevention and early intervention programs
  • Military and Veteran Suicide Prevention
  • Mental Health Parity, which in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act is expected to increase access to mental health and substance addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery support services
  • Other issues, including suicide prevention research, facilities, and programs.

2013 Annual Advocacy Forum Report

Democracy gives us opportunities to be engaged in the legislative process beyond simply showing up at the voting booth. Volunteers and staff for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention experienced the power of advocating for change on the issues they passionately support during AFSP’s Annual Advocacy Forum. On June 13, AFSP visited all 535 congressional offices on Capitol Hill to discuss legislation to prevent suicide.

200 Advocates from 48 states shared compelling personal stories about losing family members and friends to suicide and sought bi-partisan support for mental health legislation. Their day on the Hill was followed by significant outreach efforts in their own communities—efforts that have resulted in measurable progress:

Increased funding for data collection – To design effective suicide prevention strategies, we must first have complete, accurate and timely information about deaths by suicide. The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) provides this information, which is essential to improve state and federal suicide prevention activities. Current funding of $3.5 million allows only 18 states to participate in this program. Thanks to the efforts of our advocates, President Obama included an increase of $20 million in his Fiscal year 2014 budget and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $15 million in additional funding for the program in Fiscal Year 2014. It is now up the U.S. House of Representatives to pass their own Appropriations bill with this increased funding.

Support for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) – The Mental Health First Aid Act (S. 153/H.R. 274) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Mark Begich and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) with bipartisan support and in the House by Representative Ron Barber (D-AZ). MHFA is a public education program that helps people identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse. Again, thanks to the work of AFSP advocates, numerous cosponsors have signed on in support of this legislation in the House and Senate in addition to the Senate Appropriations Committee approving $15 million in funding for this program in Fiscal Year 2014.

Reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA) – Introduced by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in the Senate and Representatives Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Danny Davis (D-IL) in the House, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2013 (S. 116/H.R. 2734) renews the commitment to and strengthens critically important youth, Native American, and college suicide prevention programs administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ensuring they are best designed to meet the needs of those they are intended to serve. AFSP’s advocates were instrumental in securing bipartisan support for reauthorization in the Senate and introducing companion legislation in the House.

Get Involved

AFSP looks forward to continuing to play a leadership role in our national and state efforts to prevent suicide. To find out more about AFSP’s Advocacy program or to sign up to become and AFSP Field Advocate, please visit www.afsp.org or follow this link.

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