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Alexandria, VA – Mental Health America (MHA) recently recognized nine state legislators as MHA’s 2022 Legislative Champions. Each was honored in Honolulu, either in person or virtually, at MHA’s Regional Policy Council (RPC) Dec. 7 meeting.

The legislators recognized were:

  • Massachusetts Rep. Jamie Belsito, for working as a champion for maternal and perinatal mental health for moms and families.
  • Colorado Sen. Cleave Simpson, for bipartisan leadership in introducing and passing Colorado’s comprehensive 988 national suicide prevention lifeline network bill.
  • California Assemblymember Akilah Weber, for being an outstanding advocate for mental health, women’s rights, and civil rights. 
  • Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, for supporting budget restorations for mental health and appropriating 2022 funding to expand statewide mental health courts.
  • Ohio Rep. Dontavius Jarrells, for outstanding work as the co-chair for the Ohio Legislative Mental Health Caucus, providing leadership on bills that removed antiquated and demeaning language from state statutes, and for leadership in assuring equity and nondiscrimination in championing the Ohio Fairness Act.
  • Ohio Sen. Stephanie Kunze, for serving as co-chair of the Ohio Infant Mortality Commission, working on state criminal justice reform, and making telehealth more accessible statewide.
  • Hawaii Sen. Karl Rhoads, for championing mental health in the state as a longstanding member of MHA Hawaii’s Mental Health Task Force, participating in the state Department of Health's Involuntary Hospitalization Task Force, and being a part of the legislator group that established Hawaii's Assisted Community Treatment law.
  • Washington Rep. Tina Orwall and Sen. Manka Dhingra, for serving as the dynamic duo that formed the bicameral team in the passage of the state’s 988 legislation, which is a model for the nation.

“This group of legislators has embodied Mental Health America’s priorities of early and comprehensive support for the mental health of moms and children,” said Debbie Plotnick, executive vice president for state and federal advocacy at MHA. “These legislators have shown equity in practice and statute, improved access to mental health care, and modeled state legislation that will revolutionize crisis care.”

The recording of the RPC meeting, Surfing the Policy Wave, will be available soon here.