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First Lady McCray, Cities Thrive Coalition Applaud President Obama for Signing Most Comprehensive Mental Health Reform Legislation in Decades

December 13, 2016

NEW YORK—Today President Barack Obama has signed into law H.R. 34, The 21st Century Cures Act, the most comprehensive piece of mental health legislation in decades. The Cures Act, which includes comprehensive mental health reform legislation (H.R.2646 Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act),  invests in community-based mental health care, provides $1 billion to combat the growing opioid epidemic and establishes two new leadership positions to elevate the issue of mental health and substance misuse within the federal government. First Lady Chirlane McCray and the Cities Thrive Coalition, the first national coalition of cities to advocate for mental health reform, urged Congress to pass and President Obama to sign this bill. Cities Thrive includes a bi-partisan group of mayors from more than 70 cities, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and more. Members have signed a pledge to advocate in support of a stronger, more integrated, and better funded behavioral health system, both locally and nationally.

Led by the First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, the Cities Thrive Coalition sent a letter to Congress advocating for the need to pass this legislation during the lame duck session, as well as provide full funding for mental health programs and to set aside $920 million dollars to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. Coalition members all worked directly with their state Senators to express support for the bill. As a result of the coalition’s advocacy efforts and the action of Congress, now millions of Americans will be able to get much-needed care.

“This is an important day for families across our nation. The 21st Century Cures Act will provide tangible resources to the thousands of Americans with untreated – but treatable – mental health and substance misuse disorders. One in five Americans suffers from mental health issues in a given year. That means every family, in red states and blue states, has been touched by mental illness or substance misuse. That is why representatives from both sides of the aisle are working together, with urgency, to address this public health crisis. Today, President Obama acted to give cities more tools to address mental health for the dignity and betterment of our communities, especially those that are currently underserved. I thank the President and the more than 70 members of our national mental health coalition, Cities Thrive, for supporting the progress that our families so desperately need,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who spearheads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts and leads the Cities Thrive coalition.

One in five Americans suffers from a mental health problem or substance misuse disorder. This bill takes an important step in the right direction, but too many families still can’t access the support they need. The coalition looks forward to working with the new administration and the 115th Congress on continuing to improve the nation’s behavioral system.

“Like many municipalities in the nation, the City of Albuquerque has been focusing our efforts on assisting people in mental health crisis by reallocating resources and changing policy on a local level. The signing of the 21st Century Cures Act is an important step on a federal level to respond to this widespread crisis to provide resources to fill large gaps in the continuum of care for this vulnerable population” said Mayor Richard J. Berry of Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

“The City of Alexandria celebrates passage of the 21st Century Cures Act as a critical step forward in expanding awareness of and access to care for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders. This legislation supports our community’s values as we are a city of kindness and compassion. We are a city that ensures its residents have equal and ready access to opportunities that promote mental and physical well-being. Alexandria is proud to participate in the Cities Thrive Coalition and salutes the visionary work of New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and others in advancing this important initiative,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg of Alexandria, Virginia.

“On behalf of the City of Benton Harbor I am pleased to have worked with the capable leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the coalition of leaders to improve the lives of people regardless to creed, class or color,” said Mayor Marcus Muhammad of Benton Harbor, Michigan.

“Mental health reform is a critical need in our community. There are millions of people that do not have access to mental health care and many more who need to be educated on the seriousness of the issue. Our country has seen several acts of violence and suicide over the years and H.R. 34. will not only help to address causes of these incidents, but also develop programs to help prevent them,” said Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama.

“The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is significant, not only because it helps address our national addiction and mental health crisis, but also because it is proof that US cities can make large-scale change through meaningful collaborations like the Cities Thrive Coalition. These issues are near and dear to all Americans, as each of us has been affected in one way or another. I hope this bill serves as a watershed for future bi-partisan collaboration at all levels of government. Boston continues to be steadfast in its commitment to comprehensively addressing addiction and mental health," said Mayor Martin "Marty" Walsh of Boston, Massachusetts.

"The bipartisan passage of H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act, is huge for our country and our families. A great nation like ours deserves to have the funding to do everything in its power to prevent disease and addiction, improve mental health resources and further advance drug development," said Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina.

“The passage of The 21st Century Cures Act is a step in the right direction for mental health reform in America. We have a mental health crisis in our nation, and we must ensure that the millions of our citizens who struggle with mental illness and substance addiction have equal access to the care they need. I applaud President Obama, the Congress, New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and my peers in the Cities Thrive Coalition for their work and support of this landmark bill,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas, Texas.

“With this additional investment, communities like Dayton will have the resources to be more aggressive in combating the opioid epidemic ripping apart the community. Extending federal mental health programs will assist the most vulnerable of our residents and in turn their families. This investment will help our community thrive,” said Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio.

“Our cities are on the front lines when combating substance abuse and unmanaged or under-managed mental health issues. The 21st Century Cures Act will better help us to tackle these issues head-on to benefit those suffering under these preventable circumstances. Congress passing and President Obama signing this critical piece of legislation will provide the needed tools and investments to improve the well-being of our community,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock of Denver, Colorado.

“The signing of H.R. 34 signifies a major step forward in the struggle to support those individuals living in quiet despair as they try to cope with mental illness," said Mayor Scott Fadness of Fishers, Indiana.

“With this overwhelming affirmative vote and passage of H. R. 34, we may now move the nation forward to address long overdue attention to assisting citizens who need critical medical care. This is quite possibly the most significant human initiative we have prioritized in modern times. As Mayor of Fort Myers, Florida, I am encouraged," said Mayor Randall P. Henderson, Jr. of Fort Myers, Florida.

“Congress passing mental health reform legislation is a big step forward for the millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness. I am encouraged by the passage of this legislation and I hope that Congress continues to take bi-partisan action to reform this country’s behavioral health system” said Mayor Shawn Hogan of Hornell, New York.

“I applaud Congress and President Obama for taking a large and significant step toward creating a stronger mental health system. The cost of untreated mental illness in our cities is tremendous, especially in our most impoverished and underserved communities. But for decades we have failed to provide the resources needed to deliver timely and effective mental health care. The 21st Century Cures Act creates a foundation on which we can build a mental health system that gives people with mental illness a chance to not just survive, but thrive,” said Mayor Mark Holland of Kansas City, Kansas.

“We are enthused to hear of the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act as this will help families and communities, especially along the US-Mexico border, to address substance addiction and mental health, as well as cancer and biomedical research that address our health disparities and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. We applaud the legislation,” said Mayor Pete Saenz of Laredo, Texas.

“Las Vegas is a world class city committed to the health and wellness of all its citizens. Ensuring that quality mental health and addiction treatment services are available requires the investment of resources at the local and federal level. We are excited to see this important step toward wellness and look forward to the positive impact on our communities,” said Mayor Carolyn Goodman of Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Communities cannot solve the challenges of homelessness, drug addiction and violence without improving how we treat people dealing with mental health issues. The 21st Century Cures Act makes critically needed investments in mental health supports and creates structures to ensure that this issue continues to receive the attention and resources it deserves,” said Mayor Robert Garcia, of Long Beach, California.

“We should do all that we can to help people who struggle with mental illness, and this legislation will move us in the right direction. It’s the right thing to do,” said Mayor Jim Strickland of Memphis, Tennessee.

"This bipartisan legislation represents a turning point in the national dialogue on mental health. Every community in our nation, regardless of demographics, wealth or education, must confront the challenges associated with this epidemic. I applaud Congress and the Administration for recognizing that fact and coming together to enact legislation that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of many Americans," said Mayor John Giles of Mesa, Arizona.  

“For too long, families in Minneapolis and throughout the country have had to navigate a mental health delivery system that is badly broken. President Obama’s signing of the 21st Century Cures Act represents an important and bold step in addressing these challenges and prioritizes providing necessary services locally for those experiencing mental illness and addiction. As a result, more and more of our residents will be given the opportunity to thrive with the support and care they urgently need,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The passage of this important, bi-partisan legislation sends the message that we must be a compassionate nation that seeks to comfort and support those who are afflicted with treatable diseases such as mental illness and substance misuse,” said Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville, Tennessee.

“The 21st Century Cures legislation is a sign of progress in prioritizing Americans’ health, a move towards equipping mayors and other local leaders with the resources they need to empower the individuals and families in our communities to thrive. It has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of people who are suffering and is also an acknowledgement that we need to do more. Mental health’s inclusion in this legislation alongside other serious illnesses is a sign that we take mental health as seriously as physical health.” said Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, Massachusetts.

“The 21st Century Cures Act is a significant investment in our nation’s health. It offers hope to our friends, family and neighbors seeking treatment for mental illness and addiction. It is also a grand example of what we can do, working together in a bipartisan manner, to enhance the quality of life of the people we serve. I was happy to join New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and dozens of mayors in the Cities Thrive coalition in support of this legislation,” said Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

“Healthy cities are made up of citizens with access to high quality health care, and good mental health care is an important part of quality health care. The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is a major boost for creating healthy cities,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando, Florida.

"This represents the first significant reform of our mental health delivery system in decades. A better mental health system that's more focused on early intervention and continuity of care could save people who desperately need help a lot of suffering. My hope is it will also provide families with the tools they need to protect loved ones who are suffering from mental illness and who may be refusing to follow their doctor's orders," said Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Cities are on the front lines confronting the devastating impacts to our families and communities when mental illness and drug misuse goes untreated. This bipartisan legislation provides much needed research and resources that to help cities like Phoenix as we work to save those in crisis and recognize those who need support before they are in crisis,” said Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Arizona.

“The mental health crisis is a very real and present danger to the well-being of our communities. In addition to this historic legislation signed by the President, we must continue to seek opportunities within our constituencies to enact meaningful change to address the problem. Our society cannot flourish while there are those among us who struggle mentally to survive and do not have the tools to help them cope. I am committed to finding solutions locally and nationally; working with Cities Thrive, and any organization that is doing something tangible to provide relief for those who suffer daily from this illness,” said Mayor Adrian O. Mapp of Plainfield, New Jersey.

"Today Congress took a crucial first step in creating real mental health parity for our most vulnerable. The 21st Century Cures Act brings the issue of mental health out into the open, an issue that affects all of us, and it will help increase access for patients and families to get the care they need," said Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, California.

"On behalf of Salisbury, Maryland and small cities nationwide who are battling the outsized opioid epidemic, I applaud the President and Congress in passing this critical piece of bipartisan legislation. The 21st Century Cures Act goes further in tackling our nation’s most complex diseases: Alzheimer’s, Cancer, & Behavioral Health Disorders. Only by acknowledging that mental health and substance abuse treatment deserve the same focus on solutions that other illnesses receive, will we ever reduce their impact on our communities," said Mayor Jake Day of Salisbury, Maryland.

"Mental illness and substance misuse are among the most persistent health challenges facing our cities. President Obama's signing of the 21st Century Cures Act is a valuable and concrete step forward in providing local health systems with resources and support to address the behavioral health needs in our communities," said Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco, California.

“I applaud the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which confronts an opioid epidemic and the often invisible pain of mental illness. In addition to this legislation’s benefits for many across the country, its passage demonstrates bipartisanship can win over cynicism, and we can come together to confront our collective challenges,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, California.

"Our work in Santa Fe to care for one another, make our neighborhoods safe and make our communities more inclusive just got a major boost. This coalition proved that we can still get big things done as a nation as long as we remain willing to work together," said Mayor Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes authorization for $1.8 billion over the next decade for cancer research and significant funding to overhaul mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, will provide hope for many who are struggling in our country. In addition to putting significant funding behind finding a cure for cancer, this bill is one of the largest investments we've ever made in helping people who struggle with mental health or substance abuse disorders. We have an opioid epidemic in our country and it has touched Seattle much like other cities. To address issues like homelessness, we must work on some of the key causes, including addiction and mental health. It is past time that our nation reinvests in helping some of our most vulnerable and this bill is a step in that direction," said Mayor Edward Murray of Seattle, Washington.

“Mental healthcare and addiction services are critical and underfunded needs in South Bend and in communities across the United States, particularly those most affected by the epidemic of opioid drug use. The 21st Century Cares Act makes vital investments in community health and resilience, strengthening federal, state and local partnerships that empower our residents to thrive,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

“Not having the proper resources and treatment programs to deal with mental health illness and substance abuse addiction leaves the issue at the ‘doorsteps’ of mayors, police departments, courts and jail systems. I commend all those involved with this legislation – it’s a step in the right direction,” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno of Springfield, Massachusetts.

"The passage of H.R.34 is a tremendous win for the health and wellbeing of countless Americans around the country. It represents significant progress on several key healthcare fronts, including supporting mental health and substance abuse. I applaud the hard work of the Cities Thrive coalition, which I am proud to support alongside city leaders and colleagues from all over the United States," said Mayor Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee, Florida.

“Mental health is a huge problem that affects most families one way or another. We need to remove the stigma by having an open discussion on how we can better invest in helping people cope and recover.  H.R. 34 is a much-needed step forward,” said Mayor Laurel Prussing of Urbana, Illinois.  

“This legislation recognizes that greater federal investment and focused leadership are required to meet the mental healthcare needs of our communities. It supports my administration’s work to develop pathways to the middle class as untreated mental illnesses are often barriers to taking advantage of opportunities for a good job or other quality of life improvements,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C.

“The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is excellent news. Investments in healthcare, drug addiction, and community-based mental health services are vitally important and I applaud the bipartisan effort that led to the passage of H.R. 34 — this legislation will, quite literally, save lives and improve the health and well-being of people in communities across the United States,” said Mayor Lauren Meister of West Hollywood, California.

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