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Ferguson-Sponsored Mental Health Legislation Passes U.S. House

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), Chief Deputy Whip of the House Republican Conference and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, lauded the passage of his legislation H.R. 2877, the Behavioral Intervention Guidelines (BIG) Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 323-93-2.

This legislation will enable the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and a wide array of stakeholders, to develop best practices for the proper use and implementation of behavioral intervention programs to help communities identify the earliest signs of violence to self or others.

“Without question, we have all seen how the mental health issues in America have been growing, and they've been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ferguson said on the House Floor in support of the legislation. “And the urgency to address this crisis has become more dire as we're seeing how fear, anxiety, financial problems, and particularly isolation have compounded these issues.

“This straightforward bill works to provide local communities and educational systems with the tools that they need to help identify mental health needs before it's too late…I can tell you that early intervention is vitally important.

“Congress must step up to confront this challenge, but doing it successfully will require input from an awful lot of people. That's what this bill does. This is a bipartisan, bicameral bill that has widespread support from places like Texas [Tech], as you mentioned, University of California, and in my home district Columbus State University. It has the support of mental health organizations, mental health providers, and other individuals across this country. Together, we can and we should increase the mental health well-being of our fellow Americans…It is so important that we act to improve access across our country to high quality, evidence-based mental health care services.”

Click here to watch Ferguson’s remarks on the House Floor

The BIG Act was introduced by Ferguson in April alongside Congressmen Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas), Scott Peters (D-Calif), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif), and U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Angus King (I-ME) and has received widespread support from educational institutions and mental health organizations.

Dr. Chris Markwood, President of Columbus State University: “Columbus State University wholeheartedly supports the Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act as a means of ensuring we place as much focus on a college student’s mental health as we do on educating them and preparing them for their chosen careers. Mental health difficulties can affect many areas of their lives. If not addressed during their formative college years, those challenges could exacerbate well into their adult years. Left unaddressed, these difficulties will only compound, jeopardize their livelihoods, and threaten the fabric of the American family.”

Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell, chancellor of the Texas Tech University System: “I appreciate the bipartisan legislation that continues the awareness and support for mental health resources for our K-12 education systems. One of our System’s four universities, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, has developed a telemedicine wellness project to assist rural West Texas school districts addressing mental health issues among our state’s youth. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the utilization of telemedicine throughout the nation and mental health screening programs continue to be an asset. Our university’s program successfully utilizes modern telemedicine technology to provide resources and services directly to the schools. This legislation is an important step to provide information and resources to help support the mental health needs of our youth.”

Aaron “Chip” Reese, Ed.D, a National Association of Behavior Intervention and Threat Assessment (NABITA) advisory board member: “The BIG Act will be a gamechanger for student affairs professionals across the country because, I truly believe, it will provide a more holistic approach in our ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of our campuses and our students.” 

 

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