Mental Health Policy
Mental Health America takes a unique approach to policy. MHA believes policy should ask people what they need to live the lives they want, and support them in getting there. Recovery is founded on the principle that people can take on meaningful roles in the community in spite of mental health challenges, when they receive the support they need. MHA's goal is recovery for all. There is nothing more important than allowing each individual, and those they care about, the chance to live the life they want with meaningful roles in the community.
In the history of treatment of people with mental health problems, our system has done a poor job at protecting people. The story of the Mental Health Bell is a reminder that we cannot return to a system where people are shackled, mistreated, and otherwise forgotten. Since 1909, MHA has fought to improve the system for individuals who struggle with mental health problems.
Unfortunately, the fight is not over. MHA and our affiliates continue to fight to ensure access to treatment; improve quality of treatment; reduce homelessness, incarceration, and discrimination; and ultimately move our system towards a better mode-- one where people are treated with dignity and early intervention and prevention of mental health problems is prioritized.;
What We Fight For
As part of our cohesive effort, MHA staff, Board Members, and Committee Members have researched, written, reviewed, and approved position statements that cover a large number of policy issues that we care about. The members of our Board and Committees are consumers, family members, advocates, lawyers, scientists, practitioners, and political leaders who bring their vision and expertise to support these efforts. Each position statement provides an overview of where we stand on each issue, a background of the issue, and a call to action that lists specific changes we want to see. These position statements provide a foundation by which we fight for a better system.
Our position statements cover five main topic areas below.
Click below to view all of our position statements.
What's Happening on Capitol Hill
Founded in 1909, Mental Health America (MHA) – with more than 200 affiliates across the United States – is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans.
Mental health conditions should be treated long before crisis. When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start before Stage 4— we try to prevent illness, address symptoms early, and develop a plan for treatment.
Left untreated, people slowly lose their ability to live the life they and their families imagined – as healthy, successful, and contributing members of their community. They become isolated from the community and often end up homeless, in jails, or in hospitals. The community misses out through lost productivity and relationships.
MHA collaborates with scientists, practitioners, policy experts, advocates, and other community leaders to design policy recommendations that promote:
- Prevention for all;
- Early identification and intervention for those at risk;
- Integrated care and treatment for those who need it; and
- Recovery as the goal.
MHA works to move forward these ideas through activities that include federal and state legislative and regulatory reform, building public understanding of the issues, weighing in on key court cases, and collaboration with other advocates and coalitions to improve our system.
MHA collaborates with leaders in the mental health and policy fields to design policy recommendations that promote: prevention for all; early identification for those at risk; integrated care and treatment for those who need it; and recovery as the goal. To learn more about our legislative priorities, go to our Legislative Priorities page.
Changes in policy can better the lives of Americans living with mental illness and we urge you to consider our recommendations and address mental health before Stage 4.
Bills Introduced in the 116th Congress
Learn about some of the bills introduced in the 116th Congress that we're working on and where they fall in line with Mental Health America's legislative priorities:
Overall Health Care Reform Legislation
Prevention for All
Early Identification and Intervention for Those at Risk
Integrated Treatment for Those who Need It
Recovery as the Goal
The Regional Policy Council
MHA's Regional Policy Council (RPC) works with seven of our most knowledgeable affiliate public policy or executive directors across 7 regions in the country. The relationship between states and the federal government can be confusing, particularly for advocacy work. To learn what distinguishes the states from the federal government in terms of mental health, read our introduction to The Federal and State Role in Mental Health.
The State Of Mental Health in America Report
Each year, MHA gathers and provides up-to-date information about disparities faced by individuals with mental health problems as a tool for creating change. Read The State of Mental Health in America to learn more about the data on mental health prevalence and treatment throughout the United States that informs our policy work.
How You Can Help
Become an advocate in your state: Sign up for our Advocacy Network emails to get alerts. Join “Mental Health Advocacy Mondays” and take action to inform elected officials about critical mental health and substance use issues. Download the Act B4Stage4 Toolkit for content and tools to help you talk to federal and state legislators in your state!
Join a webinar to learn more about policy issues and advocacy: Our Webinars are a great source of information on areas that matter to MHA presented by MHA staff, affiliates, and other leaders and innovators in the field of mental health services and policy.
We are always interested to learn more about what others are doing and how they want to get involved with us to improve our system. Please feel free to reach out to any of our staff to get involved.