2,000 Advocates Join National Council’s First Ever Virtual Hill Day at Home

This week, the National Council partnered with 29 national advocacy organizations to host our first ever Hill Day at Home. Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hill Day 2020 was hosted virtually, making advocating for individuals living with mental illness and addiction more accessible than ever. A record-breaking 2,000 advocates from across the nation joined Hill Day at Home, reaching 511 Members of Congress with our policy asks. If you weren’t able to join live, you can access presentations and exhibitors’ information until July 23, and there is still time to reach out to your legislators – encouraging their support for a number of legislative priorities that are important to the behavioral health community.

On Tuesday, Hill Day at Home streamed content from the Virtual Policy Institute into attendees’ homes across the country, offering a crash course in federal behavioral health policy. Attendees heard from high-profile keynote speakers, including Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, who announced that the agency will be finalizing implementation of 9-8-8 as the three-digit dialing number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by July 2022. Other sessions included remarks from Matt Salo, Executive Director for the National Association of Medicaid Directors and Saibatu Mansaray, Assistant Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as well as focused conversations around telehealth during the pandemic, ensuring parity for behavioral health services, and identifying and addressing health inequities. Rewatch the programming by clicking here, logging in or signing up, and navigating to the auditorium section of the website.

During Hill Day at Home, the National Council recognized three winners of our Advocacy Leadership Awards, Lauri Cole, MSW from the New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, Representative Leslie Herod from the Colorado House of Representatives, and the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. Additionally, our 2020 Legislators of the Year, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative David Trone (D-MD) joined the program to deliver remarks as they were honored for their leadership on behavioral health policy priorities in Congress. On Wednesday, the National Council, the American Association of Suicidology, and Spark Media partnered to screen key scenes from the award-winning film, Scattering CJ, followed by two panel discussions and remarks from 14 legislators. The National Council thanks the panelists and Members of Congress for sharing their personal stories of how suicide has touched their lives and for the conversation around policy options to curb the suicide epidemic.

Hill Day at Home culminated with over 2,000 advocates calling on their Members of Congress to act swiftly to advance three legislative priorities: supporting an emergency appropriation of $38.5 billion for providers of mental health and addiction treatment services to weather the COVID-19 pandemic; supporting further collaboration between the behavioral health and criminal justice systems via the Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Act; and supporting the designation of 9-8-8 as the new National Suicide Hotline number via the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020. Although the FCC is moving forward with 9-8-8 via its regulatory authorities, Congress must still pass the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to codify the change in federal statute and create a funding mechanism to ensure the Hotline’s solvency. Click here to add your voice to the conversation by calling on your Members of Congress to act now to support these important issues.

Guest Author

Shelley Starkey