SEATTLE, WA – Yesterday U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Rachel Levine, visited International Community Health Services (ICHS) in Washington’s Ninth District for the first stop on the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health. Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Admiral Levine were joined by Deputy Secretary for Prevention, Safety & Health Lacy Fehrenbach, Washington State Health Care Authority Director Sue Birch, and International Community Health Services (ICHS) President and CEO Teresita Batayola for a tour of ICHS and a roundtable discussion about our nation’s mental health crisis and the steps we can take to address it. Rep. Smith issued the following statement following the visit.
“It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges across the country, resulting in a national mental health crisis, and we must do more to address it. Yesterday I had the privilege of participating in the first stop on the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health – hearing from patients and providers about our behavioral and mental health care needs and moderating a conversation about the steps we can take to bolster behavioral and mental health care systems in our communities.
“Yesterday’s conversation was a great opportunity to discuss funding deficiencies, specifically related to the capacity of our mental health care system. Expanding access to mental health care is vital, and to accomplish that goal we must ensure that our communities have enough providers to turn to. Funding is needed to invest in workforce development to train and retain mental health care professionals. Additionally, it’s crucial that we invest in community organizations that are already doing great work on the ground to provide personalized and tailored care to community members so that they can expand upon the work they’re doing and reach more people in need. These community organizations are especially vital to our most vulnerable and underserved community members.
“In our discussion, we also touched on the need to make mental health investments earlier on in people’s lives, such as funding early childhood education about mental and emotional health and funding preventative care, so that people have the foundational tools they need to lead happy lives.
“It was an honor to host Admiral Levine in the Ninth District and I commend her and the Biden-Harris administration for prioritizing the mental health crisis and making a concerted, national effort to tackle this issue. I also extend my gratitude to health care professionals in the Ninth District and across the country for their tireless work to help individuals and families work through the mental health challenges they are facing and live happier, healthier lives. I look forward to my continued work with the administration and mental health care leaders to develop effective solutions to this urgent crisis.”