Advocating to Save Lives
Unified by AFSP’s Public Policy Team in Washington, D.C., our nationwide grassroots network of Volunteer Advocates collectively shares its voice, speaking out and effecting change in support of federal, state, and local policies that make a difference in relation to suicide and mental health.
Anyone can get involved through AFSP’s Action Center, staying up to date on bills that need support, and joining advocacy efforts through events like State Capitol Days and the annual Advocacy Forum.
This fiscal year we celebrated the passage of key federal legislation to prevent suicide, including the enactment of policies to support Veterans and Service members, expand the mental health workforce, improve suicide prevention services in correctional facilities, and more, including:
- The Solid Start Act (Public Law No: 117-205), which established a new pilot program to help support Veterans during their first year of separation from active-duty military service.
- Provisions of the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law No: 117-103), which included funds for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and Behavioral Health Crisis Services. The total amount appropriated included $390 million above the previous year’s enacted level. This omnibus package eliminated copays for the first three outpatient mental health visits within the VA health system within a given year, and expanded Medicare coverage to include marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors. It also provided new funding for suicide prevention services and risk screening in emergency departments.
- The Public Safety Officer Support Act (Public Law No: 117-172), which extends benefits to surviving families of public safety officers who die by suicide.
- The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Reauthorization Act of 2022 (Public Law No: 117-323), which expanded the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program to include suicide prevention services and 988 services in correctional facilities as allowable uses of funding. It also reauthorized, increased funding for, and extended this important program.
- The Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act (Public Law No: 117-325), which authorizes federal funding for a new grant program to train law enforcement in de-escalation tactics and alternatives to use of force.
This fiscal year, 51 state bills were enacted that AFSP chapters actively supported at State Capitol Day events or through letters, testimony, or technical assistance, including bills that:
- Enhance state suicide prevention infrastructure
- Increase youth access to mental health services
- Support Veterans’ access to suicide prevention and mental health services
- Expand the mental health workforce
- Protect LGBTQ+ youth from discriminatory and harmful policies and practices
Local AFSP chapters actively opposed numerous harmful bills, nine of which were successfully defeated, including bills that would have limited or prohibited access to gender-affirming health care for LGBTQ+ youth, discussion in schools on LGBTQ+ issues, or school participation in wellbeing questionnaires such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
AFSP released a public statement in April calling upon local legislators to reject anti-trans legislation and encourage people to rally around and uplift the LGBTQ+ community.
Supporting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
July 16, 2023, marked the one-year anniversary of the historic transition to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. AFSP has played a key role in 988 implementation through legislative advocacy and policy events.
AFSP continues to advocate for strong investments in 988 and crisis services. Thanks in part to that advocacy, Congress appropriated $101M in FY22 and $502M in FY23 to support 988 infrastructure and call center staff, expand the crisis care continuum, and establish specialized services for populations and communities that are at increased risk of suicide.