Blumenthal, Begich, Ayotte Bill To Improve Mental Health Services Receives Overwhelming Bipartisan Support In Senate

Amendment To Gun Bill Includes Mental Health First Aid Act Language

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) received overwhelming bipartisan support for a mental health provision they introduced that was included in an amendment to the gun bill before the Senate. The provision would expand mental health first aid training, and passed the Senate by a vote of 95-2. 

“Despite my deep disappointment with defeats of other common sense gun violence prevention measures, this provision’s success reflects the importance of training educators and first responders how to recognize and respond to the signs and symptoms of mental illness,” Blumenthal said. “In the wake of tragedies like Newtown, we must make mental health services a top priority as a part of a comprehensive, common sense approach to making our communities safer. I’ve heard all around Connecticut how mental illness must be addressed more effectively as a cause of gun violence.”   

The provision echoes language in the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013, a bill Blumenthal introduced with Begich and Ayotte. This provision establishes important training programs to help people recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness, with particular emphasis on safely de-escalating crisis situations. This training is helpful for first responders, teachers, and others who often have to respond to terrible tragedies. The provision also encourages referrals to essential mental health resources where community behavioral health professionals can provide critical services in the aftermath of a tragedy.

The bill is endorsed by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA, and the Center for Human Development at the University of Alaska Anchorage.