As 21st Century Cures Act passes, suicide prevention advocates rejoice

Passing in a landslide, the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R.34) is on its way to President Obama’s desk next Tuesday. Hailed as the most significant piece of mental health legislation in nearly a decade, it is designed to reform and increase funding for research, approval, and delivery of lifesaving cures and treatment.

In a bitterly partisan season, the measure swept both chambers – 94-5 in the Senate and 392-26 in the House of Representatives. Its broad reach impacts multiple areas of healthcare – such as cancer research, patient advocacy, and medical device manufacturers.

Through the lens of suicide prevention, what does it mean?

One in five adults lives with a mental illness in a given year, and more than half didn’t receive care in the past year. The Cures Act provides $6.3 billion in funding to overhaul multiple areas of the healthcare system – including systemic issues in mental health systems, increasing suicide prevention resources on college campuses, and screening for depression during pregnancy. It also invests $1 billion over two years to fight opioid addiction and boost access to treatment programs.

The act also establishes an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use – sending clear message that mental health is a priority that demands strong leadership.​ It reaped praise from the American Psychiatric Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and multiple organizations dedicated to the public health issue of suicide.

The bill’s provisions call for comprehensive actions, including:

– Reauthorizing the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act to prevent youth suicide

– Giving states flexibility by reauthorizing mental health block grants such as Community Mental Health Services and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment

– Strengthening parity for mental health treatment and physical health care

– Codifying the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Program into law

– Increasing grants to boost the national supply of licensed psychologists and psychiatrists

– Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Strategies grants to states and tribes

– Incentives for states to provide early intervention for psychosis

The 21st Century Cures Act proves that when we work together, we can accomplish anything. Without strong bipartisan support, many of Forefront’s programs and initiatives would not be possible. Without calls, emails, and visits to Congressional members as well as legislators here in Washington State, many suicide prevention research and advocacy programs would not be possible locally or across the nation.

Stay tuned for updates on this historic legislation as it takes Americans to a brighter future in suicide prevention. Also, stay tuned for Forefront’s upcoming announcement and registration for Suicide Prevention Education Day to visit the state legislature this February.

– By Aimee Chou