Today, we were shocked, utterly shocked and dismayed, to learn that the U.S. House of Representatives Mental Health Caucus has disappeared. It is gone without a trace—no notice, no fanfare, no transparency.
The Mental Health Caucus has long been essential to our field. Out of the Caucus has come vital, landmark legislation. Notably, this has recently included the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and key features of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Just this year, we hoped to see the Caucus identify and put forward the positive and non-controversial features of the Ron Barber and the Tim Murphy mental health bills.
In our current divided, fractionated, and highly dysfunctional political system, the Caucus has served as a vital neutral ground where all sides could come together, hold respectful discussion, and compromise on essential mental health legislation. Such open discussion and compromise are critical features of American Democracy. The American people want both, and we want them for our field as well. Now, that vital venue has been taken away from all of us. It simply has been snuffed out!
I ask you: What will we say to the Newtown families who have lost loved ones? Will we tell them that the House leadership does not even care enough about them to host the Mental Health Caucus? What will we say to military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder? Will we tell them that the House leadership has gone on to other more important matters? What will we say to the millions of Americans with mental health and substance use conditions who are seeking to have a voice in our democracy? Will we tell them that no one in the House leadership is listening?
Obviously, you know and I know that we must do much better than this for all Americans.
We must find out what has happened to the Mental Health Caucus and why it has disappeared. We also must find out who turned out the lights on open discussion and compromise, both vital features of our field. Once we have brought light and transparency to these questions, then we must act. We must hold those who have taken this very misguided action fully responsible. In our democracy, that means we must work for the removal of these persons from the House in the upcoming fall elections. Only then will we be able to restore the Mental Health Caucus to its critical role in our essential legislative work.
I ask you to please support these critical efforts.