Debbie Mucarsel-Powell Pushes Proposal to Create National Toll-Free Number for Mental Health Concerns

Last week, after talking to survivors of the Parkland school shooting, U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., pushed her proposal to create a new national toll-free number for people experiencing mental health distress.

Mucarsel-Powell, a member of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, is championing the “Peer Assisted Relief Through Networks of Empathetic Resources and Supports (PARTNERS) Act” which will “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 bill would ensure people who call the toll free number will be connected to a trained peer who will provide support and resources.

“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 on Thursday.

“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,” she added.

Mucarsel-Powell introduced the bill back in August and rounded up almost a dozen cosponsors including U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.

The South Florida congresswoman pointed to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing more Americans dealing with mental health issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal has the support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America and the American Psychological Association (APA).

“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, the 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 McGuire, the chief advocacy officer for the APA.  “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.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee back in August. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

With two weeks to go until Election Day, Mucarsel-Powell is engaged in what is expected to be one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation. She faces Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez who won the Republican nomination in August.


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