Behavioral Healthcare

Mental Health Advocacy in Action: 2024 Legislative Priorities

Integrated Psychiatric Consultants | June 27, 2024

A speaker presents at Hill Day 2024. Right: The team of mental health advocates stand in front of the United States Capitol.

Millions of Americans live in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA), a designation determined by the number of health professionals relative to the population in that area, considering high need. As a behavioral health management group, we recognize firsthand the importance of joining forces for better access to care.

Mental health advocacy is a year-round effort that takes commitment and persistence from everyone in the field, from providers and policymakers to community agencies and organizations. For the last two decades, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing has shaped mental health advocacy through events like Hill Day, an organized effort for advocates to sit down face-to-face and discuss actionable change with elected officials and staff.

As of June 2024, 122 million Americans are living in a mental health professional shortage area. Source: Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
As of June 2024, 122 million Americans are living in a mental health professional shortage area.
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

Since 2004, the National Council’s advocacy efforts have contributed to several achievements, including the creation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) and the expansion of the mental health and substance use workforce through the Mental Health Access Improvement Act and other bills.

Hill Day 2024 took place in early June and served as a pivotal moment for IPC, with two of our team members representing multiple states on Capitol Hill. Our Chief Operating Officer, Ryan Speier, MSW, and Senior Vice President, Lindsay Demboski, came away with stronger legislative relationships and a deeper understanding of current policy priorities.

Takeaways for Mental Health Advocates

Here are some key pointers from the Public Policy Institute and subsequent events at Hill Day, put together by our team for anyone who wants to become a mental health advocate.

  1. Sign up and respond to legislative alerts to stay informed.
    Stay up to date on new mental health legislation being introduced in Congress and learn more about upcoming opportunities to speak up through Advocacy Alerts. Sign up for Advocacy Alerts here.
  2. Learn about your representatives and do your research.
    Know the people making decisions surrounding mental health in your city and state, as well as at the federal level. In your research, search for helpful statistics and stories that appeal to their platform and relate to the issue at hand.
  3. Complexity is the biggest barrier to effective advocacy, so keep it simple. When the opportunity arises to advocate in front of elected officials, prepare a focused elevator pitch that conveys your message clearly. Before asking for support on any bills in progress, be sure to thank your legislators for any relevant bills they have previously sponsored or supported.
  4. Find a supportive community and practice self-compassion. Mental health advocacy comes with challenges, so it’s important to find groups that share your passion, plus you can benefit from shared resources. Don’t forget to practice self-compassion and take care of your own mental health as you work to support others. More on how and why to practice self-care here.
Left to Right: Ryan Speier, MSW (Chief Operating Officer at Integrated Psychiatric Consultants) sitting next to mental health advocates Randy Callstrom (CEO at Wyandot Behavioral Health Network) and William Warnes, MD (CEO and Medical Director at The Guidance Center), meeting with state legislators to push for awareness and access to behavioral health care in the state of Kansas.
Left to Right: Ryan Speier, MSW (Chief Operating Officer at Integrated Psychiatric Consultants) sitting next to mental health advocates Randy Callstrom (CEO at Wyandot Behavioral Health Network) and William Warnes, MD (CEO and Medical Director at The Guidance Center), meeting with state legislators to push for awareness and access to behavioral health care in the state of Kansas.

Mental Health Legislation in Progress

Highlighted at Hill Day 2024, the following policy priorities have been introduced and are in need of continued support. Learn more about each by visiting the factsheets linked below. Review the full list of priorities here.

  1. Addressing the Nation’s Substance Use Crisis
  • Due Process Continuity of Care Act
  • Reentry Act of 2023
  • SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act

Did you know: The current Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy prohibits states from billing Medicaid for services furnished to incarcerated individuals, including those who have been detained but have not been tried or convicted of a crime.

Learn more: Factsheet

  1. Bolstering the Crisis Care Continuum
  • CONNECT Act of 2024
  • Local 9-8-8 Response Act of 2023

Did you know: Calls to 988 are currently routed according to area code; however, many individuals call from outside the region covered by their phone number’s area code. This can slow access to resources on the ground, which can create a problem if a caller needs access to a greater continuum of care, such as a crisis response team or crisis center.

Learn more: Factsheet

  1. Expanding Access to Care through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs)
  • Ensuring Excellence in Mental Health Act

Did you know: Recently, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024 (H.R.4366) codified a permanent CCBHC option for states without the CCBHC payment mechanism under the Medicaid program. Further action is now needed to cement the payment structure within Medicaid and to establish CCBHCs in Medicare so everyone in need of mental health or substance use care can access it through a CCBHC.

Learn more: Factsheet

  1. Growing and Supporting the Workforce
  • Improving Access to Mental Health Act
  • PEERS in Medicare Act
  • Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act

Did you know: Clinical social workers (CSWs) comprise one of the largest groups of behavioral health providers in the country, and in some rural areas, they’re the only behavioral health providers. With the number of Americans over the age of 65 projected to nearly double in the next decade and nearly 1 in 5 older adults experiencing a mental illness or substance use disorder, supporting CSWs is critical.

Learn more: Factsheet


Left to Right: Ryan Speier, MSW (Chief Operating Officer at Integrated Psychiatric Consultants) and Lindsay Demboski (Senior Vice President at Integrated Psychiatric Consultants) pose for a selfie in Washington, DC.
Left to Right: Ryan Speier, MSW (Chief Operating Officer at Integrated Psychiatric Consultants), and Lindsay Demboski (Senior Vice President at Integrated Psychiatric Consultants) pose for a selfie in Washington, DC.

Mental health advocacy work can spark change at a systemic level, influencing policymakers to support solutions that directly improve access to care for millions of people. IPC recognizes and applauds the National Council for Mental Wellbeing for organizing Hill Day 2024. As the year progresses, our team will continue to search for ways to show our support and bring attention to crucial legislation in progress.

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