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160+ Organizations Urge Congress to Promptly Enact the Community Mental Wellness & Resilience Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


NOTE: Letter to Congress and List of Endorsing Organizations Below the Press Release


The International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC),* supported by over 160 other national, regional, state, and local organizations that have endorsed the landmark bi-partisan Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act (CMWRA), today released a letter to Congress calling for the legislation to be passed this year. This urgently needed new legislation will expand our nation’s approach to mental health by supporting and funding community-based initiatives that use a public health approach to prevent and heal mental health, behavioral health, and psychosocial problems resulting from accelerating toxic stresses, emergencies, and disasters.  Click here to see a summary and text of the legislation.


In addition to the 160 plus organizations that have endorsed the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act, last summer and fall the ITRC hosted two virtual Congressional Briefings on the legislation that both Democratic and Republican members of the House spoke at. Over 1,400 people from across the US registered for each briefing, which indicates widespread interest in the legislation.


Comment from Bob Doppelt, Coordinator of the International Transformational Resilience Coalition


"’Community is Medicine’ for our nation’s current epidemic of mental health struggles and to prevent future epidemics resulting from rising toxic stresses, emergencies, and disasters ,” said ITRC Coordinator Bob Doppelt. Over 160 national, state, and local organizations support the landmark Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act. We strongly urge Congress to pass this very important legislation this year.”


Quotes from Mental Health, Social Service, and Community Leaders From Across the Nation


“The American Psychiatric Association strongly supports the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act," said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. "This forward-thinking proposal would authorize grants focused on strategies to enhance the ability of communities to confront the mental health impacts of acute and long-term disruptions from natural disasters, as well as other public health impacts of climate change. The APA strongly supports this legislation to foster resilience and mental wellness in communities across the nation and asks Congress to promptly act on it.”


“Social workers are on the front-line assisting individuals and families that experience the accelerating distresses generated by extreme weather events and their many consequences," said Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA LCSW-C, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Social Workers. “We know from first-hand experience that forming mutual support networks in neighborhoods and communities is vital to preventing and healing the personal, family, and social problems that can result from these adversities. For this reason, NASW strongly supports the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act and urges Congress to pass the bill.


“The American Public Health Association strongly supports the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act," said APHA Executive Director Dr. Georges C. Benjamin. "The mental health epidemic we are seeing nationwide is a public health crisis, and the increasing incidence and intensity of extreme weather events, along with a multitude of other rising stresses, will exacerbate the problem. APHA urges Congress to pass this legislation because it will fund and support communities that use a public health approach to improve mental wellness and resilience."


“The Children's Environmental Health Network firmly supports the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act," said Kristie Trousdale, Deputy Director. "Young people across the US are experiencing anxiety and other emotional struggles due to rising toxic stresses and disasters, and concerns about what they mean for their future. CEHN strongly supports the need to build population mental wellness and resilience to engage youth in activities that can prevent and heal these struggles. This is what the CMWRA will support and fund, which is why CEHN strongly urges Congress to pass this important legislation this year."   


“Over 45 counties/communities in North Carolina have multi-sector coalitions that are working to address the stress load of residents from various realms of “ACEs”—including Adverse Childhood, Adverse Community, Adverse Climate, and Atrocious Cultural Events,” said Mebane Boyd. Resilience Community Officer, North Carolina Partnership for Children. “Funding provided by the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act of 2023 could help sustain these grassroots organizations and the valuable work they are doing to educate, respond, and work on mental health prevention. For this reason we urge Congress to enact this important legislation this year.” 


“The mental health impacts of climate change must be considered in discussions on how to address this public health crisis, said Katie Huffling, Executive Director, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “Unfortunately, our current health system is not prepared to adequately care for those burdened by climate change. Nurses understand the importance of the proactive and holistic approach that is the foundation of the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act of 2023.  Passage of the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act of 2023 is a much needed step towards building resilience and promoting mental wellness in the wake of the growing climate crisis and for this reason the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments strongly urges Congress to enact the legislation this year.”


"We need to give equal attention to preventing and healing the psychological consequences of the increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters as we do on building more resilient physical infrastructure," said Dr. David Shern, Senior Associate, Department of Mental Health Bloomberg School of Public Health, Senior Public Health Advisor at National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, and former President/CEO of Mental Health America. "It is critical that these population health issues be addressed systematically and quickly. Fortunately, we have tools to address this challenge, but need policies and investments to implement them. The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act of 2023 is essential in meeting these challenges and for this reason we urge Congress to enact the legislation this year.


“The Community Mental Wellness and Resiliency Act of 2023 is essential to create the social infrastructure throughout the United States needed to prepare our citizens for the array of mental health challenges resulting from toxic stresses and acute disasters,” said Elaine Miller-Karas, Co-Founder and Director of Innovation at the Trauma Resource Institute. “Our organization works across the U.S. and we have seen a systemic lack of preparedness to respond to the mental health challenges people face before, during, and after these traumatic stressors. This policy is urgently needed to support coordinated community-based initiatives and for this reason my organization strongly urges Congress to enact the legislation this year."  


"We know how to build strong resilient communities," said Becky Turner, Director of Community Engagement for the Community Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA. "We follow the science, and we put our focus on weaving trauma-informed and resilience-based practices into the very fabric of our community. Data confirms that the use of resilience-based practices can help communities overcome adversity and related health outcomes. We now have renewed urgency to pass the "Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act" to ensure all communities have access to this life-saving and revelatory framework. or this reason we urge Congress to pass the legislation this year."


"America's current approach to persistent stresses and disasters is too reactionary, focused on providing support only after a traumatic event," said Jesse Kohler, Executive Director of the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP). "The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act will build community partnerships to help residents prepare for and respond in constructive ways to adversities. Resilient communities reduce the mental health consequences that can ripple through the community and help residents heal when traumas do occur. This is why we urge Congress to pass this very important legislation this year."


ITRC Coordinator Bob Doppelt concluded by stating “The fact that over 160 national, regional, state, and local organizations endorse the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act shows that professionals nationwide see the need to expand the way we address mental health issues to include community-based initiatives that use a public health approach to build population mental wellness and resilience to prevent and heal mental health and psychosocial problems. We urge Congress to act.”


* The International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC) is a network of mental health, social services, disaster management, social justice, and other professions working to establish methods to prevent and heal the mental health and psychosocial problems generated by the climate emergency and other adversities. Website: http://www.theresourceinnovationgroup.org/


LETTER TO CONGRESS


To: Majority Leader Schumer, House Speaker Johnson, and Minority Leaders McConnell and Jeffries: 


The International Transformational Resilience Coalition, and more than 160 other organizations listed at the end of this letter, request that Congress enact HR 3073/S 1452, the bi-partisan Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act during this Congress. This urgently needed new legislation will expand our nation’s approach to mental health by supporting and funding community-based initiatives that use a public health approach to prevent and heal mental health, behavioral health, and psychosocial problems resulting from accelerating toxic stresses, emergencies, and disasters.  


In addition to the 160 plus organizations that have endorsed the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act, last summer and fall the ITRC hosted two virtual Congressional Briefings on the legislation that both Democratic and Republican members of the House spoke at. Over 1,400 people from across the US registered for each briefing, which indicates widespread interest in the legislation. 


The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act was introduced by co-leads Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), along with original co-sponsors Don Bacon (R-NE), Mary Peltola (D-AK) and Kathy Castor (D-FL). They have since been joined by co-sponsors David Valadao (R-CA), Barbara Lee (D CA), Morgan McGarvey (D-KY), Shri Thanedar (D-MI), Donald Davis (D-NC), David Trone (D-MD), Ann Kuster (D-NH), Troy Carter (D-LA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Brittany Petterson (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR),  Jerrold Nader (D-NY), Andrea Salinas (D-OR), Susan Wild (D-PA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MI At-Large), Melanie Ann Stansbury (D-NM), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D DC-At-Large), Jill Tokuda (D-HI), Josh Harder (D-CA), and Becca Balint (D-VT).


A companion bill, S 1452, was introduced in the Senate by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR),  Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). 


The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act is urgently needed because mental health problems are at epidemic levels today nationwide and constitute a public health emergency. According to Mental Health America, in 2022 almost 20 percent of adults, or nearly 50 million Americans, experienced a diagnosed mental illness and 5 percent had a severe mental illness. In addition, a 2022 CDC survey found that overall, 37 percent of students at public and private high schools reported poor mental health, including stress, anxiety, and depression. A poll by the American Psychiatric Association found that 53 percent of adults with children under 18 said they are concerned about the mental state of their children. 


The record heatwaves, droughts, wind, rain, and snowstorms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, hazardous smoke events, and other severe stresses, emergencies and disasters the US is experiencing are aggravating these problems and creating many new ones. In 2021 more that 40 percent of Americans lived in a county that was impacted by a major disaster. The events can traumatize 20-40 percent of those who are directly impacted, 10-20 percent of disaster response workers, and 5-10 percent of the general population who are not directly affected but know someone who is or view the events from afar. Consequently, the number of people who experience a mental health problem as a result of a disaster often outweigh those with physical injuries by 40 to 1. 


Mental health services are essential. However, they do not prevent psychological and emotional distresses or traumas by strengthening the capacity for mental wellness and resilience. In addition, there will never be enough providers to assist all of the individuals who now experience mental health struggles. The number of people needing assistance will only grow as more toxic stresses, emergencies, and disasters occur.  


The only viable way to reduce today's epidemic of mental health struggles, and prevent future ones, is  to actively engage communities in using a public health approach to strengthen the capacity for mental wellness and resilience among all residents for all types of toxic stresses, emergencies, and disasters. 


A public health approach to mental wellness and resilience focuses on the entire population, including but not limited to high-risk individuals and those with symptoms of pathology.  


It prioritizes preventing psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems before they occur, not merely treating them after they appear, and in many cases integrates mostly group and community minded methods to heal traumas into the prevention methods.  

A public health approach to mental wellness and resilience accomplishes these goals by actively engaging residents in activities that strengthen protective factors—social support networks, local resources, trauma and resilience-informed knowledge and skills, and other assets—that enable them to buffer themselves from the forces that undermine their wellness and resilience and find new meaning,  purpose, and hope in adversities.  


From the Healthy and Resilient Communities Initiative in North Carolina to Peace4Tarpon in Florida and the Community Resilience Initiative in Washington State, numerous community-based mental wellness and resilience building initiatives are underway throughout the U.S. They have shown that by engaging local residents and organizations in implementing a range of age and culturally-tailored strategies, community becomes medicine for psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems.  


The top problem almost all of the initiatives have struggled with, however, is securing start-up funds. This makes it very difficult for new initiatives to get organized. Many also struggle to secure ongoing operational funds, which diminishes their effectiveness or causes some to close.  


The support and funding provided by Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act will address these problems by providing both planning grants to enable local initiatives to get organized, and program grants to support the ongoing operations of community-based initiatives as well as a technical assistance program to help communities develop grant proposals and learn from each other.  


It is important to note that, because our bodies and minds are not separate, there is significant comorbidity between mental health and physical health problems. This means that social, psychological, and emotional problems often aggravate existing, or can directly cause physical health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and more. Using a public health approach in communities to prevent and heal mental health, behavioral health, and psychosocial problems will therefore also help reduce physical health problems, which can help reduce the pressures on the nation’s health care system. 


For these reasons the organizations below that endorse the legislation, and the International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC), urge you to expand our nation's approach to preventing and healing mental health and psychosocial problems by enacting the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act this year


Thank you for considering this request. 


Bob Doppelt 

Coordinator 

International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC)


ORGANIZATIONAL ENDORSERS


  • International Transformational Resilience Coalition 

  • National Association of State Mental Health Directors National Alliance of Mental illness (NAMI) 

  • American Psychiatric Association 

  • American Psychological Association 

  • Mental Health America 

  • American Public Health Association 

  • National Association of Social Workers 

  • National Rural Health Association 

  • Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health 

  • Rural Opportunity Institute 

  • National Association of Regional Councils 

  • The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health

  • National League for Nursing 

  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

  • American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical  Social Work 

  • National Association of Community Health Workers 

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America  Clinical Social Work Association 

  • Save the Children 

  • National Federation of Families 

  • American Association on Health and Disability The Jed Foundation 

  • National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

  • International Society for Psychiatric Nurses 

  • American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

  • Alliance for Positive Health 

  • Rural Health Network of SCNY 

  • National Association for Children's Behavioral Health American Lung Association 

  • Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU)

  • Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy 

  • National Association of School Psychologists Psychotherapy Action Network 

  • Trauma & Resilience Initiative Inc. 

  • Unitarian Universalist Mental Health Network

  • NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals

  • Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

  • American Association on Health and Disability Clinical Social Work Association 

  • National Compadres Network 

  • The Kennedy Forum 

  • The Resiliency Group 

  • Community Resilience Initiative 

  • Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative Trauma Resource Institute 

  • Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy & Practice

  • Interfaith Power & Light 

  • Climate Mental Health Network 

  • New Leaf Counseling LLC 

  • San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility

  • Whatcom Family & Community Network 

  • International OCD Foundation 

  • UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

  • Mental Health America of the Palm Beaches

  • American Family Therapy Academy, Inc. 

  • American Counseling Association 

  • Health Care Without Harm 

  • Children's Environmental Health Network

  • Prevention Institute 

  • Peace4Tarpon 

  • Start Early 

  • Birch Bay-Blaine Thrives 

  • Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine Chapter

  • The Resiliency Initiative 

  • Beaver Hollow 

  • Metta Foundation 

  • Lieberman Group, Inc. 

  • Jen Johnson, MS, MFA, LCMHC 

  • NH Healthcare Workers for Climate Action Resilience Climbing 

  • Sabater Laboratory for Psychological Innovations Inc Able-Differently 

  • Reaching Resiliency  

  • Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action 

  • One Shared Spirit 

  • Seneca County Community Schools 

  • Trauma Healing Project  

  • Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing 

  • Visible Hands Collaborative  

  • The Children's Agenda 

  • American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare 

  • Climate Resilience Leadership, LLC 

  • SolaVida 

  • MUYUMPA - Centro de Formación en Terapia  Comunitaria  

  • Thinkwell, LLC. 

  • Lieberman Group, Inc. 

  • Win Climate 

  • Climate Psychology Alliance - North America Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies

  • Jennifer G. Gordon PhD PC 

  • Organic Intelligence 

  • The Blueford Group 

  • Beaver Hollow 

  • Trauma & Resilience Inc. 

  • Climate Resilience Fund 

  • Lakeshore Foundation 

  • Glenn County Office of Education 

  • Columbia Resilience 

  • KLBRI 

  • BasicNeeds US, Inc. 

  • Vermont Climate and Health Alliance 

  • CAN Climate Action Net 

  • Climate Generation  

  • Rising Communities (formerly Community Health Councils) 

  • United Way of the Columbia Willamette  

  • Truly Well 

  • Resources for Resilience  

  • Good Grief Network 

  • Towson Therapy Group 

  • Prevent Child Abuse New York

  • Family Focused Treatment Association 

  • Resilience United 

  • Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative

  • Committee for Children 

  • Resilient Brunswick County 

  • Inseparable 

  • Afterschool Alliance 

  • 18th Street Arts Center 

  • Indivisible ReSisters Walnut Creek 

  • ecoAmerica 

  • Post Carbon Institute 

  • Futures Without Violence 

  • Aloka Earth Room 

  • Moms Clean Air Force 

  • Finger Lakes Community Schools 

  • 350 Eugene 

  • Climate Psychiatry Alliance  

  • The Resilient Activist 

  • Generation Up (GENup) 

  • EcoInfluencer Academy 

  • Trauma Informed Oregon 

  • Climate Health Now 

  • Generation Up (GENup) 

  • RI International 

  • Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility RIMYA Services  

  • Our Climate 

  • Community Resilience Research 

  • Susanne Moser Research & Consulting 

  • MENTOR Youth Development 

  • The Family Focused Treatment Association

  • The Center for Mind-Body Medicine 

  • Triple P America - Positive Parenting Program

  • 100% Chaves County Initiative  

  • Full Circle Florida, Inc.  

  • Schools for Climate Action 

  • Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility Safer Together 

  • Classic City Mindful Movement 

  • ACEs Matter, Corp 

  • Global Alliance for Behavioral Health & Social Justice

  • Youth and Women for Change in Eswatini 

  • Future Focused Education 

  • Resilient Colorado 

  • Peace 'In It’ Counseling 

  • Futures Without Violence 

  • Educational Sustainability Mobilization Inc.

  • SabaterLAB Foundation 

  • Trauma-informed Hampshire County Between the Waters Restore Hope Participatory Research Consulting



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