2015 Advocacy Forum

FORUM ATTENDEES: Fill out your Hill Visit Evaluation Forms online here

The Annual Advocacy Forum is AFSP’s single largest effort to educate federal officials about suicide and suicide prevention.  This June, over 250 AFSP advocates, volunteers, and staff from all 50 states joined us in Washington, DC to network, discuss and review current legislative issues, and to ask all 535 members of Congress for their support on important suicide prevention policy priorities. To view videos of the event, click here.

The event kicked off on Sunday June 21 with an evening Welcome Reception where participants introduced themselves to the group and got to know each other.  We then heard from a variety of panelists and experts on Monday June 22, in preparation for visits to the Hill on Tuesday June 23.  Tuesday evening we honored our “Allies in Action” award winners and our “Sandy Martin Grassroots Award” winners (listed below).  The Forum concluded with a plenary session on suicide and firearm safety and breakout sessions on Wednesday June 24, along with an open house at the AFSP Public Policy Offices.

Our keynote speaker for the event was Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA), who discussed his major mental health reform bill, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” (H.R. 2646). Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) addressed the group by video to discuss the importance of continued attention to suicide prevention with our military personnel and veterans and their families.  In addition to AFSP National Public Policy Council members, Chapter leaders, and staff members, other event presenters included:

  • Pam Hyde, Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Paul Gionfriddo, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health America
  • Doris Fuller, Chief of Research and Public Affairs, Treatment Advocacy Center
  • Diane DiSanto, Legislative Assistant, former Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)
  • Yochi Dreazen, Managing Editor, News, Foreign Policy/The Global Magazine
  • Bill Rausch, Political Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • Rene Campos, Deputy Director, Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America
  • Rachel Lipsey, Military Legislative Assistant, Office of Senator Donnelly
  • Chuck Ingoglia, Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Practice Improvement, National Council for Behavioral Health
  • Laurel Stine, Director of Congressional Affairs, American Psychological Association
  • Lauren Alfred, Policy Director, The Kennedy Forum
  • Andrew Sperling, Director of Federal Legislative Advocacy, National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Paul Bonta, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Affairs, American College of Preventative Medicine
  • Ralph Demicco, Co-Chair, New Hampshire Firearm Safety Coalition
  • Ohio State Representative Marlene Anielski

Major Talking Points participants delivered during their Hill visits with members of Congress and their staff:

  • Support Major Mental Health Reform:
    • Support H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, introduced by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Eddie Bernice Johnson  (D-TX); support a similar effort in the Senate led by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
    • Fund suicide prevention research at the National Institute of Mental  Health (NIMH) at $125 Million
    • Increase funding for suicide prevention crisis lines by $55 Million
  • Fully Fund the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS):  Appropriate $25 Million to fully fund NVDRS to collect data from all 50 States; states needing to be added to NVDRS include AL, AR, CA, DE, DC, FL, ID, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, ND, SD, TN, TX, WV, WY
  • Maintain Military Personnel and Veteran Suicide Prevention as a National Priority:
    • Support the Military and Veteran Legislative Care Package in the Senate (S. 714, S. 715, and S. 717)
    • Increase funding of U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mental health and suicide prevention programs, crisis lines, and peer-to-peer counseling services

Allies in Action Award Winners work tirelessly to improve mental health and reduce suicide in our country.  Because of the continued leadership, dedication, and support of this year’s award winners, there are signs of HOPE that we can achieve our ambitious goal of reducing suicide 20% by 2025.  Our sincere thanks to each of this year’s award winners:

  • Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ)– Congressional Award
  • Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) – Congressional Award
  • Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CT)– Congressional Award
  • Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) – Congressional Award
  • Jonah Cunningham, Health Legislative Assistant, Office of Representative Grace Napolitano – Congressional Staff Award
  • Rachel Lipsey, Military Legislative Assistant, Office of Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly – Congressional Staff Award
  • Kasia Witkowski, Director, Patient Advocacy Engagement, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Federal Partner Award
  • Yochi Dreazen, Author,The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War– Partner Award
  • Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health – Partner Award
  • Ohio Representative Marlene Anielski (R-Walton Hills) – State Award
  • Utah Representative Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) – State Award
  • Washington State Representative Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) – State Award

Click here to view our advocates’ social media posts during the forum.

Click here to see the photos from the forum.

Advocacy Forum Videos


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