Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Napolitano & Katko Hold Transforming Crisis Mental Health Care Briefing

May 26, 2017
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC)  On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA-32) and John Katko (R-NY-24) co-hosted a bipartisan briefing in coordination with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) on transforming mental health crisis care, as part of a series of events for National Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Mental health affects everybody, whether old, young, rich, or poor, yet it remains underfunded here in Washington and misunderstood,” Napolitano said. “One way to address the issue is by improving coordinated crisis care. This great teamwork between hospitals, first responders, law enforcement, and social service personnel can save truly lives. As May Mental Health Month comes to an end, we thank all who participated in briefings and events on Capitol Hill and across the country. Together we continue to erase stigma and ensure those in need know we love and support them.”

“Throughout Mental Health Month, I’ve been proud to partner with Congresswoman Napolitano to raise awareness for the importance of mental health services and improving access to care,” said Rep. John Katko. “At this week’s bipartisan briefing, we heard from experts who focus on suicide prevention each and every day.  I am hopeful that we can now move forward to transform these ideas into sound policy.”

Joining Napolitano and Katko was a panel of experts who highlighted the critical need for coordinated systems of care as it relates to suicide prevention and proposed ways to develop policies and programs aimed at improving behavioral health crisis care. Panelists included David Covington, CEO and President, RI International, Inc.; Dr. John Draper, Project Director, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Chief Clinical Officer, MHA-NYC; Misha Kessler, Advocate & Entrepreneur, Founder,; Det. Nick Margiotta (Retired), President, Crisis System Solutions; and Dr. Jerry Reed, EDC Senior Vice President and Director of EDC’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Injury, Violence and Suicide and Executive Committee Member of the Action Alliance .

“Feeling vastly outnumbered and ill equipped, the nation's hospital emergency departments are the Alamo of mental health access and care,” said Covington. “In too many communities, law enforcement has been unofficially handed the 'crisis system,' and patients routinely wait for days with no access to care. We can do far better and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention's Crisis Now report points to a better vision, with real-life programs already implemented in states like Arizona and Georgia. These innovative models are more humane, effective, and far less costly and provide a roadmap for better crisis care for all Americans.”

“Through the SAMHSA-funded National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK/8255), millions of Americans calling from anywhere at any time have received immediate, free and anonymous help from trained counselors since 2005,” said Dr. Draper. “As independent evaluations have shown that Lifeline centers effectively reduce distress and suicidality in callers, this network of 160 local crisis centers has become our nation's public health safety net for persons in emotional and suicidal crisis.”  

“I believe this panel embodied the profoundly consequential goals that are gaining momentum in the field of mental healthcare, including the paradigm shift of recent years towards greater appreciation of the practical, clinical, and political goals that we know will save lives,” said Kessler, who has lived experience with crisis care. “Ultimately, comprehensive care means the inclusion of the voices of those who struggled and continue to struggle with mental health challenges. It means that we all work together, utilizing our own unique and diverse expertise to prevent suicide and end this public health epidemic. It means that everyone has a role to play – regardless of their political outlook, regardless of their career, regardless of their personal relationship to mental illness. The need is apparent, and the solutions are within reach. We must make them happen.”

“The key to meaningfully engaging law enforcement to help reduce suicide and increase opportunities for therapeutic diversions requires not just having quality community based crisis services but also ensuring that they are easily accessible, meeting the "customer service" needs of the police,” said Margiotta. “Thank you to Congresswoman Napolitano and Congressman Katko for bringing us all together and recognizing the need for improved coordinated crisis care.”

“As noted in the Crisis Now: Transforming Services is Within Our Reach report, individuals in crisis need access to the appropriate services and treatment—wherever, whenever, they need it,” said Dr. Reed. “A coordinated crisis care network is a state and community’s first line of defense to save lives, and we need national- and state-level commitments to implementing comprehensive crisis services.”

Mental health advocates and congressional staff who attended the briefing received copies of the Action Alliance’s report, Crisis Now: Transforming Services is Within Our Reach. A recording of the livestreamed video can be viewed here.

Since 1949, May has been observed as National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when advocates and activists across the country draw attention to the mental health issues that affect as many as one in four Americans.

Napolitano is the founder and Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, where she promotes access to mental health for children and adolescents, improved mental health resources for veterans, and increased mental health coverage for all.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For the Congressional May Mental Health Awareness Month calendar, visit

# # #