From the Whitehouse press office:
Washington, DC – Today, President Obama hosted a National Conference on Mental Health at the White House to discuss ways to help the millions of Americans who struggle with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a strong advocate for legislation to improve care coordination for mental health patients, was with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) among the invited guests at today’s conference.
“For too long, Americans suffering from mental-health conditions have been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and poorly treated,” said Whitehouse. “We’ve made great strides to improve care for these individuals in recent years, particularly through the mental health parity law championed by Congressman Kennedy, but there is still more we can do. I look forward to working with President Obama and his Administration on this important issue.”
Over the past several years, Senator Whitehouse has emerged as one of the leaders in Congress on mental health issues. He strongly supported Congressman Kennedy’s Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, and in 2010 Whitehouse and Kennedy teamed up to introduce the Health Information Technology (HIT) Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act. That bill would have made federal HIT incentives available to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment providers who are currently ineligible to receive incentives available to a majority of medical professionals and facilities. Whitehouse has continued working on that legislation since Kennedy’s retirement, and plans to reintroduce an updated version of it later this year.
Senator Whitehouse has also been working to amend the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program to enable federal support for the training of mental health providers at children’s psychiatric hospitals, like Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island.
Today’s conference at the White House featured appearances by President Obama, Vice President Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, as well as mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, and individuals who have struggled with mental health conditions. Actors Glenn Close and Bradley Cooper also participated.
The event was a part of the Administration’s effort to launch a national conversation to increase understanding and awareness of mental health.