Letter to House Leadership: Pass Mental Health Reform

Mental Health Liaison Group

The Honorable Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
H-204, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515 

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-107, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
Minority Whip
U.S. House of Representatives
1705 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Speaker Ryan, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Whip Hoyer:

We, the undersigned organizations, write today in strong support of mental health reform provisions contained in the bicameral and bipartisan end-of-year healthcare package currently being advanced, and we urge the House to pass these provisions as soon as possible.

As you know, we have a mental health crisis in this country. Over 68 million Americans have experienced a mental health or substance use disorder in the past year, which is more than 20 percent of the total population of the United States. Lifetime rates are much higher with some estimates approaching 50 percent. More striking, in 2014, nearly 43,000 Americans died by suicide. Many individuals with mental health or substance use conditions are unable to access or receive the appropriate services and supports for these disorders, and they remain constantly challenged by mental health service delivery systems that are largely fragmented and uncoordinated across the country.

Thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), and others, Congress has prioritized mental health reform efforts over the past three years. We are pleased that the underlying healthcare package incorporates H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which passed the House nearly unanimously in July. These important bipartisan provisions strengthen federal coordination of mental health resources, increase reporting on mental health parity, advance integrated service delivery, support the mental health workforce, increase early access to mental health services, promote suicide prevention, and enact meaningful reforms to criminal justice systems.

The need for reform is urgent, and you have the opportunity to act now to improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans, their families, and our communities.

We urge you to enact mental health reform legislation this year.


American Academy of Pediatrics
American Art Therapy Association
American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
American Dance Therapy Association
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
American Group Psychotherapy Association
American Nurses Association
American Occupational Therapy Association
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare
Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness
Center for Clinical Social Work
The Clinical Social Work Association
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Eating Disorders Coalition
Emergency Nurses Association
The Jewish Federations of North America
Mental Health America
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health
National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health
National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors
National Council for Behavioral Health
National Health Care for the Homeless Council*
National League for Nursing
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society*
The National Register of Health Service Psychologists
No Health without Mental Health
Parity Implementation Coalition**
Sandy Hook Promise
Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America
School Social Work Association of America
Tourette Association of America
The Trevor Project
Trinity Health, Livonia MI*

*Affiliate Member
**not MHLG member


 National organizations representing consumers, family members, advocates, professionals and providers c/o Laurel Stine, J.D., American Psychological Association at and Debbie Plotnick, MSS, MLSP, Mental Health America at

SHP Post-Election Statement


Dear Sandy Hook Partners, Friends and Family,

Over the last week, some of you reached out with concerns about the impact of the election on the work of Sandy Hook Promise (SHP).  We want to reassure you that, from where we sit, nothing has changed.  To achieve sustained gun violence prevention, we must shift our culture and build a significant base of Americans to demand change.  This will take time and is not influenced by one election.

As we have said many times and you have witnessed over the last 4 years, national gun violence prevention will not happen until we get Americans committed to it. This requires investment in changing attitudes and behaviors – social and cultural change, beginning at the grassroots community level.  Specifically, this means engaging and building an “influential majority” of Americans from all sides of the issue - the left, sensible center and center-right – to engage in prevention and pass legislation. This is SHP’s mission. You don’t need a gun violence prevention President to do this.

SHP has and will continue to engage multiple generations of Americans – adults and adolescents in red and blue states alike – through our education campaigns and prevention programs.  In just 3+ years, we have educated and built a relationship with over 900,000 Americans from every state and all sides of the issue.  Additionally, in the last 18 months, we have trained over 1,000,000 youth and adults in our Know the Signs gun violence prevention programs.  Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi, Florida, California, Illinois, New York and everyone in between are joining and learning our programs – the demand is high.  Our country needs violence prevention programs, mental wellness support and social inclusion efforts more than ever – and SHP is ready to deliver.

We know that change happens from the bottom up and that’s why Sandy Hook Promise is committed to supporting critical policy efforts that start at the state level.  On Election Day, we witnessed the power of states and our collective voices when voters in Washington, Nevada and California passed laws to prevent gun violence before it happens. We’ll continue to work hard supporting state initiatives working with leaders, legislators and voters in the most rural and urban communities to pass laws that strengthen mental health care in our schools and give educators the tools they need to combat youth violence, bullying and suicide.

Federally, we look forward to working with allies old and new, Republican and Democrat, to continue to build national support for sensible gun safety and mental wellness legislation.  We’ve been working for four years to pass the Mental Health Reform Act, now at its final hurdle in the Senate, and we won’t stop until this bill becomes law.

Over the next three years, SHP will double our base and triple our prevention program reach – specifically targeting the states and cities experiencing the highest rates of violent crimes and death by firearm.  At this rate, we expect to have the critical mass and reach our “influential majority” of Americans by 2026.  This may seem “too long”, but consider organizations who oppose our approach – these groups required over 30 years to build the influence they have today.    

Our country may be divided politically, but we’re keeping our promise to bring people together from all walks of life, backgrounds and beliefs for one common, universal purpose – to prevent gun violence before it happens. 

Please continue to help us by sharing our message, building our influential majority base, supporting our Know the Signs programs and donating to fuel our growth.   Be assured that we will never stop acting on the promise we made our sons Dylan and Daniel almost four years ago.   No election will deter us … and we know it won’t deter you either. 

Onwards.  Promise. 

Nicole Hockley (Dylan’s Mom) and Mark Barden (Daniel’s Dad)

Sandy Hook Dad Mark Barden on Maine's Background Check Initiative, Question 3




Nearly 4 years ago, our 7-year-old son Daniel was taken from our family. This kindhearted, freckle-faced boy was killed in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary along with 19 other children.

The horrific events of December 14th 2012 have changed our lives forever. I have now committed the rest of my life to finding ways to spare other families from living this pain. We have made some progress, but there is still much to do and we need your help.

Right now in Maine, felons, domestic abusers, and the most dangerous people can easily and anonymously buy guns from unlicensed sellers. No background check is required. Police from neighboring states routinely recover guns used in crimes that were purchased in states, like Maine, were this loophole exists.

This Tuesday, voters in Maine, have a chance to close these dangerous loopholes and take a simple step to help protect our kids and families from gun violence.

I am proud to support Question 3 on Maine’s ballot, and I am urging all the fathers, mothers, and concerned citizens in Maine to vote yes on Question 3 to require background checks for all gun sales in Maine.

Background checks take only a few minutes to complete. Since the background check system was started, it has blocked more than two million sales of guns to dangerous people.

In states that have background checks on all gun sales, almost 50% fewer women are killed by their partners and 50% fewer police officers are killed on duty. Background checks work, and I think Maine voters will agree that we should let them work for Maine.

I know that no single law can stop all gun violence and nothing will bring our sweet, little Daniel back. But we have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to start somewhere.

Please vote yes on Question 3 this Tuesday.



Nevada's Background Check Initiative, Question 1

Travis Spitler was barred by law from buying a gun, but he easily found a way around the restriction.

Spitler connected with a private seller and lied about his background, which included an open domestic violence case in Arizona and a domestic protective order filed against him.

And just like that, Spitler purchased the .357-caliber revolver he used to kill his ex-girlfriend, Christina Franklin, and wound her two children before turning the gun on himself.


SHP proudly supports Nevada's background check initiative, Question 1, to keep children and families safer from gun violence. 

Read more about Question 1 HERE


99.9% of Americans will know a victim of gun violence in their lifetime


Almost every single American—99.85%—will know at least one victim of gun violence during his or her lifetime, a recent analysis in the journal Preventive Medicine estimates.


Read more HERE.  

An Enduring Promise: Sandy Hook Mom Talks Commitment to Helping Kids Say Something to Prevent Violence

In just 20 months of operation, Hockley and her SHP team have trained over 1 million members with the ultimate goal of having violent prevention programs in every school soon. A current partnership with Miami-Dade district schools and an upcoming partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District both stand as testament to how the group is building on its momentum, easily making it a viable candidate to be the leading voice of violence prevention in America’s schools.


Read more on Education World here:

Over 1,000 Schools and Youth Organizations to Participate in Second Annual Say Something Call-to-Action Week this October



Media Contact:

Dini von Mueffling Communications

Dini von Mueffling / Stephanie Morris /



Over 1,000 Schools and Youth Organizations to Participate in

Second Annual Say Something Call-to-Action Week this October


Students nationwide will learn life-saving skills through Sandy Hook Promise’s

violence prevention programs


Newtown, CT - Almost four years following the tragedy that struck the Sandy Hook community on December 14, 2012, an organization formed by some of the families of the victims will educate youth across the country on gun violence prevention. Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that aims to prevent violence before it starts by educating students, school administrators, parents and communities to identify anyone exhibiting signs of harming them self or others and to intervene to get help. One of its “Know the Signs” programs, Say Something, takes preventative measures by helping students recognize the signs of potentially violent or at-risk behavior in their peers, particularly on social media, and to act immediately by saying something to a trusted adult.


During the week of October 24th through the 28th, SHP will work with schools across the nation – from Shreveport, Louisiana to Chicago, Illinois - in the 2nd annual Say Something Call-to-Action week. This year, participation in Say Something Week has more than doubled and hundreds of thousands of students in grades 6-12 from over 1,000 schools nationwide will learn how to recognize the warning signs of violence and self-harm, including bullying, depression, eating disorders, and substance, physical, or sexual abuse and learn how to share any observed signs with a trusted adult. Through Say Something, every student is empowered to help others and their community, becoming upstanders rather than bystanders.


According to research, in 4 out of 5 school shootings, the attacker told someone of his/her plans prior to the attack and 70% of people who complete suicide told someone of their intention or gave some type of warning. SHP’s programs work to proactively prevent tragedy by reinforcing the power within young people to stop violence before it starts.


“Our Say Something program has been proven beneficial for schools and students across the country as students trained in the program have stepped up to help avert violence, big and small, in their schools and communities,” said Nicole Hockley, Managing Director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of 6-year old Dylan Hockley who was also killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy. “Every student we train has the power to help someone else and avert a potential tragedy. Imagine how many families will be spared the agony of losing a loved one, once teens are made aware of the signs and learn how to properly intervene and Say Something to a trusted adult.”


Say Something is delivered at no cost to schools and organizations by SHP. The program can be taught in the classroom, through assemblies, or by student ambassadors.



Since its inception, Sandy Hook Promise has educated over 1 million youths and adults in its Know the Signs Programs in all 50 states on mental health & wellness, identification of at-risk behaviors and how to take action and get help before a situation escalates. Those trained are now able to spread SHP’s vital messages and create a culture of connectedness and inclusion throughout their community.


About Sandy Hook Promise

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a non-partisan national nonprofit formed and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  Based in Newtown, Connecticut, SHP’s sole purpose is to prevent gun violence BEFORE it happens so that no other parents experience the senseless, horrific loss of their child.  SHP delivers, at no cost, four Know the Signs programs that teach youth and adults to recognize signs and signals of individuals who may be at-risk of hurting themselves or others and intervene to get them help before it is too late.  SHP’s Know the Signs programs have helped stop a school shooting, multiple suicide and firearm threats, while also intervening to help individuals get mental health assistance.  Additionally, SHP advocates for sensible state and federal violence prevention policy in the areas of mental health and wellness identification, intervention and treatment as well as firearm access and storage. To bring SHP’s Know the Signs programs to your school or community or help advocate for sensible policy, visit


Nicole Hockley pens open letter to mom of South Carolina shooting victim Jacob Hall


I'm ashamed of myself.

When I heard the news of the Townville Elementary school shooting, I was horrified. Too many similarities to the shooting at Sandy Hook School that took the life of my son, 19 of his classmates and six of his educators almost four years ago. A troubled young man (a child himself) with access to guns, killing one of his parents and then going to an elementary school and shooting first-graders and educators.

My first question was, “Are they OK?” Hearing that there were no deaths at the school eased my pain a little and I was able to return to my work. I knew the community would be traumatized. I knew families would be left wondering how this could have happened and what they could do to prevent it from happening elsewhere. I knew eventually we would hear about the signs and signals that the shooter gave off long before the violence occurred, but that were missed, not recognized, or not acted upon. I knew it was yet another preventable tragedy, but my immediate pain and fear was lessened because none of the children had been killed.

Until Saturday, when I learned of Jacob Hall's death. Seeing the picture his family released before he succumbed to his wounds killed me inside. Seeing his mother's face as she held her beautiful baby boy for the last time ... there are no words for the anguish I felt then and still feel today.


Read the rest of her letter, here: