For Immediate Release
December 14, 2022
Program Manager, Climate & Clean Energy Advocacy
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
Legislation Introduced to Expand US Approach to Mental Health
and Resilience to the Effects of Climate Change
Washington, D.C.- Today Senate Democrat, Ed Markey (MA) re-introduced bipartisan legislation to support mental health in the wake of the growing climate crisis. The legislation, H.R. 9201, The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act (CMWRA), is an urgently needed new policy that will direct CDC to provide small planning grants and larger implementation grants to community coalitions to strengthen the capacity for mental wellness and resilience among all adults and youth. The legislation seeks to reduce the current epidemic of mental health and psychosocial problems and prevent future ones by using a public health approach to build population-level mental wellness and resilience for all types of adversities, including those generated by the climate emergency. The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments are joined by over 115 national, regional, state, and local mental health, human services, climate, social justice, education, faith, and other organizations in endorsing CMWRA.
The need for the new policy is evident and urgent. In 2021 alone, more than 1 in 5 American adults experienced a diagnosed mental illness. Residents nationwide are experiencing accelerating toxic stresses due to job, income, and housing insecurity, poverty, and other struggles. Another cause of the rise in mental distress is that 40 percent of Americans lived in a county impacted by a major natural disaster in 2021.
There are nowhere near enough mental health professionals to assist all of the people who experience mental and behavioral health problems today. This gap will only grow over time as the climate emergency worsens. Community-based initiatives that help the entire population strengthen their capacity for mental wellness and resilience as they assist each other with difficulties will go a long way in addressing these issues.
“Nurses thank Senator Ed Markey for introducing the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act in the Senate,” said Katie Huffling, Executive Director, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. ”Mental health impacts need to be considered and amplified when having discussions regarding loss and damage associated with climate change. Nurses understand the importance of the proactive and holistic approach that is the foundation of mental wellness and resilience. The rapidly worsening climate crisis requires multidisciplinary solutions and the legislation introduced by Senator Markey will go a long way in addressing community needs in the face of this public health threat.”
In addition to ANHE, over 115 national, state, and local organizations have endorsed H.R. 9201. National endorsers include the: American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, National Alliance on Mental Health, American Public Health Association, Mental Health America, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Children’s Environmental Health Network, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, American Lung Association, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, American Association on Health and Disability, The Kennedy Forum, Health Care Without Harm, and many others.
Specifically, H.R. 9201, The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act will:
- Authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a grant program to expand existing community-based initiatives and form new ones that use a public health approach to enhance population-level capacity to prevent and heal mental health problems generated by persistent disasters and toxic stresses.
- Appropriate $30,000,000 for fiscal years 2023 through 2027 to fund small planning grants of up to $15,000 to help community initiatives get organized, and larger program grants of up to $4 million to support and help expand existing community wellness and resilience initiatives (note: this total is likely to change when the legislation is reintroduced in 2023).
- Target community-based initiatives that will involve a wide and diverse network of grass-roots and neighborhood leaders, and non-profit, private, and public organizations.
- Encourage community initiatives to develop their own age and culturally appropriate strategies to engage all adults and youth in enhancing and sustaining mental wellness and resilience, with high-risk individuals and those with pathological symptoms given special attention as part of the larger community effort.
- Encourage strategies that use evidence-based, evidence-informed, promising, and/or indigenous practices to engage residents in strengthening existing protective factors, and forming new ones, to help all adults and youth push back against traumatic stressors, maintain mental wellness, and rapidly recover when impacted by toxic stresses or disasters.
- Individualized mental health treatment will support the community-based wellness and resilience building activities and assist people who still cannot function, or are at risk of harming themselves or others.
**Read the full act HERE. ANHE members are encouraged to contact their House and Senate members to urge them to co-sponsor the legislation and push for its rapid enactment.