mental health reform
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Lawmakers have paid increasing attention to mental health in recent years. On October 17, 2020, S.2661 became law, requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to designate the telephone number 9-8-8 as the universal national suicide prevention hotline. This change went into effect in the United States on July 16, 2022. This monumental change in the country marks an important milestone for mental health advocacy. Several states have followed the federal government’s lead this year in establishing various bills to support mental health reform.


Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy signed HB172 into law on July 18, 2022. State House lawmakers introduced the bill on April 12, passing it on May 10. The Senate followed suit on May 16. The law outlines the state’s various rights and obligations to those who suffer from mental health issues and have been institutionalized within the state. This includes embedding rights for psychiatric patients in institutions, assigning attorneys to those who do not have the means to afford a representative, and regulating the distribution of medicine for those in mental health-related crises. The law also protects the rights of individuals regarding being held in an institution and how long they can legally be held against their will. The law safeguards the liberties of those experiencing mental illness.


Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed HB22-1256 into law on June 8, 2022, after the Colorado General Assembly completed bicameral approval of the measure on June 1, 2022. The law modified civil involuntary commitment statutes for those experiencing various mental health disorders. While the bill amended several previous statutes, a few of the most prominent included: the appointment of an attorney to those in treatment for a mental health disorder regardless of their ability to afford one, the requirement that the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) report annually on the involuntary commitment system’s effectiveness, and the designation of specific funds to different departments, such as the Colorado Department of Health Services. The bill requires the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing to promulgate specific rules for institutions that handle services regarding mental health care through telemedicine.


Delaware Governor John Carney signed HB300 into law on August 3, 2022. State House lawmakers introduced the bill, which was considered by the Education Committee. The State House and Senate went on to pass the bill unanimously on June 16 and June 30, respectively. The law creates mental health service units within middle schools. The initiative has two main objectives: decreasing the ratio between counselors and students so that each student seeking help may receive more personalized care and increasing students’ access to effective mental health services. The project will span three years beginning in the fiscal year 2023.


Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed SB1012 into law on August 17, 2022. State Senator VanderWall introduced the mental health reform bill in April 2022, which received Senate approval on May 26 and House approval on July 1. The law created a new program—SMART—to distribute grants to qualified graduate students and their supervisors in mental health professional programs. The initiative is set to establish training programs for graduate students, working to educate and provide firsthand experiences for those in the field of psychology in handling mental health crises with students. This project aims to provide a wider variety of therapeutic outlets for young students earlier on. The Michigan Department of Education will operate the SMART program.

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