Senator Portantino Receives NAMI Award for Championing Mental Health Policies

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State Senator Anthony Portantino (Photo By Ross A Benson)

On Sunday, July 24, Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) received the 2022 Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Award from the Urban Los Angeles National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).   The award was presented to the Senator during a celebration of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.  Senator Portantino was honored for championing policies that remove the stigma associated with mental health issues and authoring SB 224, which expands mental health instruction in schools.

“As a father who has the privilege to advocate for comprehensive mental health policies, I am humbled to receive this honor,” stated Senator Portantino. “I am also honored to work alongside many advocacy organizations, like NAMI, dedicated to improving mental health outcomes for those in need.  Together we will continue pushing forward policies critical to ensuring the long-term wellbeing of persons with mental illness.”

Senator Portantino has a strong record of advocating for mental health policies and has been dedicated to improving mental health outcomes during his time in public office.  The Senator previously authored SB 972, which required schools to print the suicide hotline on student identification cards.  He dedicated three years to passing SB 328, a policy that pushes back start times for middle and high schools.  Scientific data and research show that later school start times lead to improved mental health for kids, with reductions in instances of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. 

For his past work, Senator Portantino received the Children’s Hero Award from the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and has been recognized by Family Services Agency in Burbank.  Last year, the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA) honored the Senator as a Behavioral Health Champion.  Earlier this year, Senator Portantino was honored with the Youth Mental Health Champion Leadership Award by California Mental Health Advocacy for Children and Youth.

Senator Portantino has authored multiple bills aimed at improving mental health outcomes.  SB 224 requires local educational agencies, which currently offer one or more courses in health education to middle or high school students, to include mental health content in those courses.  It also requires that the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand mental health instruction in California public schools on or before January 1, 2024.  SB 14 requires the California Department of Education to recommend best practices and identify training programs to address youth behavioral health, including but not limited to, staff and pupil training.  Additionally, the bill ensures that youth absences from school for mental health issues will be treated as an excused absence in the same way any other health issues are treated.  Both SB 224 and SB 14 have been signed into law.  This year, Senator Portantino introduced SB 1302 to establish or improve wellness and mental health support centers on campuses and SB 387 to require evidence-based mental health training for 75 percent of classified and certificated employees on school campuses.

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“We were impressed by Senator Anthony Portantino’s record of prolific legislation, namely his initiation of SB 224 in January 2021 and signed into law in October 2021.  This legislation is crucial in having mental health matters be a part of the curriculum of instruction for students in California. Thus, we honored Senator Portantino for ‘Leading Through Innovative Legislation’,” stated Ann Shough, Secretary of the Board of Directors for NAMI Urban Los Angeles.

NAMI Urban Los Angeles (NULA) was founded in 2003 and is the urban affiliate of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to educating, advocating, supporting, and building better lives for the millions of individuals & families affected by mental illness.  NULA provides education about severe brain disorders, supports increased funding for research, and advocates for adequate health insurance, housing rehabilitation, and jobs for people with serious psychiatric illnesses in communities of color.  It also seeks to educate the public about the myths of mental illness to eradicate stigma.