SEATTLE, WA – On Friday, May 6, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra traveled to Washington State, where he joined Representative Adam Smith (WA-09), Senator Patty Murray (WA), Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Representative Kim Schrier (WA-08) for a tour of Crisis Connections, which will be a key partner in the transition to the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Following the tour, a roundtable discussion was held to discuss HHS’ work to support adults and teens in crisis.

Secretary Becerra, Rep. Smith, and Rep. Schrier later toured Renton High School’s school-based health clinic, operated by HealthPoint, to promote the urgent need for all teens and eligible youth to get their annual vaccinations, including those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, to keep schools open, healthy, and safe.

Rep. Adam Smith issued the following statement following Secretary Becerra’s visit.

“We are currently experiencing a national mental health crisis that has been fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday’s event was a great opportunity to hear directly from members of our community about the mental health and wellness challenges they’re facing right now and the solutions we can deploy to address these challenges. I appreciated the chance to learn more about the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which will be crucial to diverting 911 calls related to mental and behavioral health crises. 1 in every 10 calls for police response involves a person suffering from a mental illness, and in most places around the U.S., operators have no choice but to dispatch police officers to every scene, regardless of whether they are equipped or trained to handle these situations. That's why I authored the 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act, which would provide funding for unarmed crisis response teams that divert nonviolent 911 calls to specialized service providers who are better equipped to handle these calls. Members of our community will be able to call 988 if they are witnessing or experiencing a mental health crisis and 988 will work in conjunction with 911 to ensure that trained professionals – such as social workers, paramedics, and peer support counselors – respond to the call. In order to properly address our nation’s mental health crisis, we must deploy resources across the country to ensure that adults and young people have the tools they need to pursue safe, happy, and healthy lives and 988 will be critical to this mission.

“I also participated in a tour of Renton High School’s school health clinic and had the chance to discuss with Secretary Becerra and Representative Schrier the urgent need for all teens and eligible youth to get their annual vaccinations, including those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines are essential to keeping schools safely open – and school-based health clinics are crucial to making sure that kids have access to vaccines, regardless of their circumstances. In Congress, I am a strong advocate for funding community health centers and school-based health centers, which are the backbone of health care for hundreds of thousands of people in the 9th District. Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan, Health Point recently received $200,000 from HHS to expand upon the vital work they're doing. During the FY 2022 appropriations process, I also successfully secured $350,000 for the new Family First Community Center Health Clinic in Renton, operated by Health Point, which will bring quality health and wellness programs to the community and will eliminate many of the transportation and financial barriers to accessing health care currently experienced by low-income families in the Cascade and Benson Hill neighborhood.

“I’m grateful to Secretary Becerra for prioritizing Washington state in the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health and I applaud the Biden-Harris administration for taking action to tackle our nation’s mental health crisis. I also extend my gratitude to health care professionals in Washington’s Ninth District and across the country for their tireless work to lead our communities through this crisis and advance effective solutions to address mental health and wellness challenges. I look forward to my continued work with the administration and the incredible partners on the ground in my community to help individuals and families to live safer, healthier, and happier lives.”

View social content about the the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here.
Read an op-ed I wrote for the Seattle Times about the need to reform police response and the success that 911 diversion programs could bring to communities across the country here.
View social content about the mental health roundtable here.
View social content about the importance of school-based health clinics here.