Our visit to the Hill

My Granddaughter, Denise, 13, and I participated in the National Council’s Hill Day through NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Youth Move.

If you clicked on the link, you saw that the first day was spent learning about effective advocacy, getting an update on the political climate and digging deeper into areas of interest.  Nicolle Wallace, NBC Political Analyst spoke being a reporter in different administrations and handling tough questions.  She was very encouraging regarding the issues we were addressing, because she said there was bipartisan support for these mental health and addition prevention and treatment issues.  We heard from Senators and Representatives about how successful programs such as CCBHC (Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics) have made a difference in access to services and treatment outcomes.  As I listened to the presentation about CCBHCs, I thought that they sounded very much like the Step VA initiative we have in Virginia.  This was confirmed Monday at the Joint Legislative Committee to Study Mental Health in the 21st Century (third slide).

We were provided information about 5 bills and were encouraged to decide among our group which two or three we would request the Senator(s) or Representative(s) (or their assistant(s) we visited to sponsor or cosponsor.  The bills included:

  • Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Expansion Act (S. 824/H.R. 1767)
  • Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (S. 2074/H.R. 2482)
  • Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 286/H.R. 945)
  • Medicaid Reentry Act (H.R. 1329)
  • FY 2020 Appropriations

Information about each of these can be found at: https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/events-and-training/hill-day/hill-day-program/fact-sheets-2019/

I learned that only 43% of all people living with mental illness receive treatment for their condition – although the numbers go up to 67% for serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and major depression.  And only 12% of Americans with a substance use disorder receive specialty treatment in any given year.  As we think about our kids in school, here are some facts from NAMI.org to consider:

1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34. 

During the 2nd day, we had appointments to meet with our Senators and Representatives.  In most cases, (and in all cases for Denise and me), we met with the legislative aides for the legislators.  Denise and I met with:

  • Bobby Scott’s Legislative Assistant Christina Ingram and Legislative Correspondent, Allen Jones, III
  • Mark Warner’s Legislative Correspondent, Hayley Brower
  • Abigail Spanberger’s legislative assistants
  • Don Beyer’s Assistant

After our group made the case for the mental health/addiction legislative priorities, Denise and I lingered behind to extend our appreciation at Bobby Scott’s and Don Beyer’s offices for all their work on HR 7124. I provided the following document and requested that it be provided to the Senator/Representative and/or the person in the office responsible for disability legislation.  The document requests a meeting to discuss the Restraint and Seclusion legislation.  


  • Beth Tolley

    Beth retired in 2018 from a leadership position in Virginia’s lead agency for early intervention for infants and toddlers and is a mother, grandmother and advocate.

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