Nov 23, 2021

In this season of thanksgiving, we're grateful for new investments and protections for people with mental health conditions, but we recognize that we must address societal inequities to improve mental wellness.

Last week, with almost no media fanfare, the Senate passed a sweeping mental health reform bill. The Mental Health ABC Act 2.0 promotes and supports evidence-based practices like collaborative care, protects prisoners in state prisons who are at risk of suicide, takes steps to expand and diversify the mental health workforce, and continues the slow but steady march toward mental health parity by strengthening accountability for benefits administration to end discriminatory practices.

The bill comes on the heels of the legislature proposing more than $250 million in federal ARPA funding to invest in better, more effective behavioral health services. Among many MAMH priorities included in the bills (now in conference committee) is funding to better train 911 operators to identify mental health crises and divert calls for an appropriate non-police response.

As we begin this season of gratitude, I am buoyed by the clear commitment from leaders across the Commonwealth to address the long-haul impact of the COVID pandemic on mental health. I am thankful that the stigma, discrimination, and ignorance that has long surrounded our public (and private) understanding of mental health needs is beginning to fall away.

But I’m worried, too. Persistent economic stress, frayed social discourse, and criminal legal system disparities leave many with greater vulnerability and less agency. Recent events in judicial proceedings for murders of people exercising their rights to protest injustice or to simply run on public roads remind us that, as a nation, we are not okay. We can no longer ignore these signs of a deeper, societal trauma.

The impact of COVID is only part of a perfect storm of fear, anger, and politics that seeks to justify injustice. As we give thanks with our family and friends this week, let us recognize that mental health and wellness cannot thrive in trauma and are actively undermined by racism and injustice. Let us continue to work toward a broader peace and justice for all.

Danna Mauch, MAMH President & CEO

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