Washington (December 14, 2022) – With communities facing extreme weather events, worsening epidemics, and rising temperatures, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act, legislation to establish a first-of-its-kind $30 million pilot grant program through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to provide funding to community-based mental wellness and resilience programs designed to address the compounding systemic mental health issues faced by communities bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. Americans today are experiencing a growing mental health crisis, according to the American Psychological Association, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, and the weakening of community structures, which together have made the mental health of frontline environmental justice communities more vulnerable as they experience intensifying climate disasters.
“Across the country, environmental justice communities are living through the compounding crises of the coronavirus pandemic and continued climate disaster – raging wildfires, historic drought, devastating flooding,” said Senator Markey. “People are losing their homes to climate disaster and their loved ones to worsening pandemics. It has never been more clear that our mental health is tied to the health of our planet. Communities are at the front lines of making sure their friends, family and neighbors can get the help they need when they need it, but they are also the most affected by health care and climate crises. As we work to secure climate and public health investments in Congress, we must also do our part to empower communities to protect their mental health at a time of worry, stress, and uncertainty. Families on the frontlines of these crises deserve community resources for all aspects of their well-being.”
“In every corner of the country communities are experiencing climate chaos. It’s important to recognize that how we respond and deal with the trauma of natural disasters and the threat of future climate harms varies from person to person and community to community,” said Senator Merkley. “The climate crisis is disproportionately affecting the health, economic opportunity, and fundamental rights of future generations. Making sure there are resources and programs available for environmental justice and underserved communities is critical to addressing the compounding mental health concerns individuals and families in these communities experience.”
“This legislation provides important mental health resources to those on the frontlines of climate change,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Impacted Americans dealing with the aftermath of droughts, superstorms, and increasingly frequent catastrophic events deserve our support. The public health investments made today will ensure healthier, stronger communities tomorrow.”
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are cosponsors. Representatives Paul Tonko (NY-20) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) have introduced companion legislation in the House with co-sponsors Kathy Castor (FL-14), David Trone (MD-06), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Katie Porter (CA-45), and Mary Pertola (AK).
The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act is endorsed by more than 115 organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and National Alliance on Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, American Public Health Association, Mental Health America, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Children’s Environmental Health Network, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Lung Association; Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, International Transformational Resilience Coalition, EcoAmerica, American Association on Health and Disability, The Kennedy Forum, Health Care Without Harm, PACEs Connection, Climate Psychiatry Alliance, Green Faith, and many others.
"We applaud Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) for introducing The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act as a companion bill to H.R. 9201 introduced in the House by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA),” said Bob Doppelt, Coordinator, International Transformational Resilience Coalition. "Our nation is experiencing an epidemic of mental health and psychosocial problems, and the troubles will only expand as the climate emergency accelerates. Individualized mental health services cannot assist all of the Americans who experience problems today, and have no chance of addressing the scale and scope of the troubles speeding our way. Senator Markey’s introduction of the CMWRA moves us closer to expanding our nation’s approach to mental health by supporting community initiatives that use a public health approach to strengthen the capacity of all residents to prevent and heal mental health problems.”
“The American Psychiatric Association strongly supports the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act, introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey and in the House by Representatives Paul Tonko and Brian Fitzpatrick," said Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., CEO and Medical Director, APA. "This forward-thinking proposal would authorize grants focused on strategies to enhance the ability of communities to confront the mental health impacts of acute and long-term disruptions from natural disasters, as well as other public health impacts of climate change. APA strongly supports this legislation to foster resilience and mental wellness in communities across the nation.”
"America's current approach to disasters is too reactionary, providing support after a traumatic event," said Jesse Kohler, Executive Director, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice. "This legislation will build community partnerships to help them prepare for disaster. Strong communities heal faster and reduce the mental health consequences that can ripple through the community. We thank Senator Markey for his leadership."
“The Trauma Resource Institute applauds Senator Ed Markey's introduction of The Community Mental Wellness and Resiliency Act," said Elaine Miller-Karas, Co-Founder and Director of Innovation, TRI. "It is essential to create the infrastructure throughout the nation needed to prepare our citizens for the array of mental health challenges that follow climate events. We thank Senator Markey for taking the initiative to introduce this urgently needed new policy, which will support and fund coordinated community-based resilience building initiatives."
"We thank Senator Ed Markey for introducing the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act in the Senate," said Katie Huffling, Executive Director, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. "Nurses understand the importance of the proactive and holistic approach that is the foundation of mental wellness and resilience. The rapidly worsening climate crisis requires multidisciplinary solutions along with input from and consideration for communities most impacted- the elderly, low income communities, individuals with comorbidities, and the legislation introduced by Senator Markey will go a long way in addressing this need.”
"It is critical that population health issues related to recurring natural disasters be addressed systematically and quickly. Our nation has not paid nearly enough attention to the psychological consequences of the toxic stress that accompanies climate related natural disasters as well as the other adversities we face." said Dr. David Shern, Senior Associate, Department of Mental Health Bloomberg School of Public Health; Senior Public Health Advisor, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. "Fortunately, we have tools to address this challenge, but need policies and resources to implement them. The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act helps to meet these needs."
“The National Association of Social Workers sends our deepest thanks to Senator Edward Markey for introducing the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act,” said Sarah Butts, MSW, Director of Public Policy, National Association of Social Workers. “Social workers are on the front line helping individuals, families, and communities remain safe, healthy and resilient during and after adversities. Forming mutual support networks in neighborhoods and communities are key to healing and recovery for those that endure trauma from natural disasters and other stressors. NASW strongly supports this legislation because it will fund community-based initiatives that build individual and collective psychological and emotional resilience.”
"Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we have renewed urgency to pass the 'Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act,' to ensure all communities can build resilience for all types of adversities," said Becky Turner, Director of Community Engagement, Community Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA. "We need to follow the science, and put our focus on weaving trauma-informed and resilience-based practices into the very fabric of our community. Data confirms that the use of resilience-based practices can help communities overcome adversity and related health outcomes. For this reason we strongly support the introduction of the CMWA by Senator Markey."