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Alexandria, VA – Mental Health America (MHA) today recognized 12 state legislators as 2023 Legislative Champions during MHA’s Regional Policy Council (RPC) meeting in Indianapolis.

Those recognized as MHA 2023 Legislative Champions were:

  • Connecticut State Sen. Heather Somers for co-chairing the Mental Health Caucus in Connecticut and actively engaging with mental health organizations, professionals, and community members to understand their needs and concerns, as well as advocate for improved access to care.
  • Connecticut State Rep. Susan Johnson for the creation of the Mental Health Caucus in the Connecticut General Assembly, securing increased funding for mental health programs, spearheading efforts to expand access to quality care, and advocating for community-based services that address the diverse needs of individuals across the state.
  • New Jersey Assemblywoman Carol Murphy for her efforts to bring wellness and mental health awareness to New Jersey schools and prioritizing mental health in her role as chair of the National Conference of State Legislators policy committee.
  • Washington State Sen. Annette Cleveland for being a staunch ally of people living with mental health conditions and for her unflagging support for access to appropriate health care and treatment as defined by persons in need of treatment and their providers.
  • Washington State Rep. My-Linh Thai for support of mental health parity, youth suicide prevention, employment for people with mental health needs, and for mental health recovery services and supports for students with disabilities.
  • New Mexico State Rep. Tara Lujan for support of harm reduction and suicide prevention legislation.
  • Indiana State Sen. Michael Crider for his unflagging support for mental health and being the driving force behind the passage of Senate Bill 1 (“Behavioral Health Matters”).
  • Ohio State Rep. Adam Miller for outstanding work on mental health, such as being a primary co-sponsor of House Bill 231 to provide permanent, stable, and viable long-term funding for Ohio’s 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and for expanding peer support services that help those who are pregnant, new moms, and birthing persons.
  • Ohio State Sen. Paula-Hicks-Hudson for outstanding work on mental health to improve access to quality and inclusive care with Mental Health America of Ohio.
  • New York State Sen. Samra Brouk for organizing and serving as the chair of the New York State Senate Mental Health Committee and her commitment to maternal health.
  • Louisiana State Sen. Louie Bernard for outstanding work on Senate Bill 34 to require 988 resources on all driver’s licenses and other policy initiatives with Louisiana Mental Health Association.
  • Kentucky Sen. Dr. Karen Berg for bills to support the mental health of youth and her strong advocacy to protect LBGTQ+ individuals.

“This year’s honored legislators have and are making strides in improving the mental health of their states,” said Debbie Plotnick, executive vice president for state and federal advocacy at MHA. “From 988 implementation and funding, to maternal and LGBTQ+ mental health, to supporting recovery and getting resources into schools, these 12 legislators are furthering Mental Health America’s values of providing hope and access to care for all.”

National experts, MHA affiliate and Board leaders, state officials, and several current and former Legislative Champions joined as speakers, including Colorado State. Rep Dafna Michelson-Jenet, Utah State Rep. Steve Eliason, and Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson, all to explore some of today’s most important and difficult policy issues.

The RPC is guided by MHA’s most knowledgeable public policy and executive affiliate leaders, who work alongside MHA staff to mobilize grassroots and grasstops advocacy, share information, and provide and facilitate mentorship with affiliates about state and federal legislation and initiatives.

Today’s meeting covered the first full year of 988; how present legislative efforts are affecting the mental health of young, and especially young LBGTQ+, people; support for mental health in rural communities; system transformation in Indiana; and the importance of justice and faith to mental health


About Mental Health America

Mental Health America is the nation’s leading community-driven nonprofit dedicated to promoting mental health and well-being, resilience, recovery, and closing the mental health equity gap. Mental Health America’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of whole person health , including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; and integrated care, services and supports for those who need them. Learn more at