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Representatives Mike Lawler and Adriano Espaillat Introduce New Bipartisan Legislation Addressing Community Mental Health

Yesterday, Representatives Mike Lawler (NY-17) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) introduced the Community Mental Wellness Worker Training Act, a consequential piece of legislation aimed at increasing the availability of mental health services and providing adequate care to underserved communities.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated one in five U.S. adults live with mental illness. However, only half of individuals in need have received mental health services in the past year. This legislation would create a grant program to allow certified community behavioral health clinics, community mental health centers, hospitals, and other behavioral health organizations to train mental wellness workers and increase resources for the community.  

“More than one in five Americans struggle with mental illness, nearly one in ten suffer from depression in any given year, and over 16% have battled substance abuse in the past year,” said Representative Lawler. “With a rising mental health crisis and addiction epidemic, there has never been a greater need for mental wellness workers. That’s why I’m proud to join Congressman Espaillat in introducing the Community Mental Wellness Worker Training Act. This legislation will address the critical shortfall in mental health workers by training the next generation of specialists, ensuring individuals in the Hudson Valley and across our nation get the care they deserve.” 

“Communities around the nation are facing a mental health tsunami, and our bill will address the national crisis at hand as well as specifically train and support local healthcare workers who have the cultural competency and context to best serve their neighbors,” said Representative Espaillat. “Expanding mental health resources that take into account culture and language considerations, will help decrease stigmas that communities, particularly minority communities, face when addressing mental health and getting the support individuals need. Our bill will create a framework tailored to remove barriers that have long prevented marginalized communities from seeking mental health services as well as provide federal grant funding to ensure these services are in place when needed.” 

“The workforce shortage makes it difficult to meet increased demand for mental health and substance use treatment and care, so it’s vitally important that we expand our approach to who can identify and respond to mental health challenges,” said National Council for Mental Wellbeing President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia. “The Community Mental Wellness Worker Training Act would accomplish that goal and much more. It expands the behavioral health workforce and creates jobs, while giving communities more resources to meet demand. We applaud Rep. Espaillat and Rep. Lawler for introducing this measure to develop a new workforce pipeline into the field to help those in need of treatment and care.”

“The Columbia Mental Wellness Equity Center is thrilled that this important legislation is being introduced. Expanding the workforce through this legislation’s support for lay provider training to provide immediate access to quality mental health care supervised by mental health specialists is a critical step in addressing the urgent challenges we face with mental health and substance use inequities and service access,” said Milton Wainberg, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Columbia Mental Wellness Equity Center.

The following organizations have endorsed the Espaillat-Lawler legislation: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Mental Health Counselors Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, American Occupational Therapy Association, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health & Social Justice, Huntington’s Disease Society, International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, National Disability Rights Network, National League for Nursing, Psychotherapy Action Network, The Kennedy Forum, Western Youth Services and Postpartum Support International. 

Congressman Lawler is one of the most bipartisan members of the 118th Congress and represents New York's 17th Congressional District, which is just north of New York City and contains all or parts of Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester Counties.