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Hirono, Chu, Napolitano Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Reduce Mental Health Stigma in AANHPI Communities

~ Members of the AANHPI community have the lowest rates of mental health service utilization of any racial/ethnic group ~

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act to curb mental health stigma in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities. This introduction marks the first time that the legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA).

“Economic, cultural, and language barriers prevent too many members of the AANHPI community from accessing critical mental health care,” said Senator Hirono. “Establishing a community-informed national outreach and education strategy is critical to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care in AANHPI communities. As AANHPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month come to a close, I am glad to join Representatives Chu and Napolitano in introducing this bill to help more members of our community access culturally-competent mental health care.”

According to data collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), members of the AANHPI community have the lowest rates of mental health service utilization of any racial/ethnic group, with only 25 percent of Asian adults with a mental health problem receiving treatment in 2021. In 2021, an estimated 77 percent of the AANHPI community, who met criteria for a mental health problem, did not receive necessary treatment. And, even though suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States, it is the leading cause of death for AANHPI youth ages 10 to 24, and they are the only racial or ethnic group in this age category whose leading cause of death is suicide.

If signed into law, this legislation would instruct SAMHSA to:

  • Provide outreach and education strategies for the AANHPI community by partnering with local advocacy and behavioral health organizations that have an established record of serving AANHPI communities and ensure these strategies reduce stigma associated with mental health conditions and substance abuse; and
  • Conduct research and collect disaggregated data on the state of mental health among AANHPI youth and AANHPI providers within the behavioral health workforce.

“The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, NAAPIMHA, is in strong support of the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act,” said Dr. DJ Ida, Executive Director of NAAPIMHA. “This bill provides critical investments towards reducing stigma associated with mental health within Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander communities. We are hopeful this bill will improve mental health outcomes through much needed cultural and linguistically appropriate outreach education and mental health services, workforce development, and research with and for AANHPI communities.”

“Papa Ola Lokahi appreciates all efforts to decrease mental health stigma, which is prevalent in our communities, and is grateful that Congress recognizes the importance of culturally resonant service provision for Native Hawaiians,” said Dr. Sheri Daniels, CEO of Papa Ola Lokahi.

In addition to Senator Hirono, the Senate bill was also cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

The legislation has been endorsed by AAPI Amplified; AAPI Democratic Caucus of Nevada; AAPI Equity Alliance; AAPI Montclair; AAPI Youth Rising; Anise Health; API Equality-LA; Arizona Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander for Equity; Arkansans United; Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC; Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF); Asian Counseling and Referral Service; Asian Girls Ignite; Asian Mental Health Collective; Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AFL-CIO); Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL); Asian Youth Act; Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO); Can't Stop! Won't Stop! Consulting; Can't Stop! Won't Stop! Education Fund; Center for Innovation in Mental Health, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health; Change Matrix; College of San Mateo AANAPISI Program; Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC); Filipino Mental Health of Initiative - Hawai’i; Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO); Hawaii Public Health Association; Istorya; Japanese American Citizens League (JACL); Koreatown Youth & Community Center; Little Tokyo Service Center; Mabuhay, Inc.; Mental Health America; Mental Health America of Hawai`i; Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity; National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA); National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA); National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA); National Council for Mental Wellbeing; National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA); National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA); National Organization of API Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV); OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates; Papa Ola Lokahi; Philippine Nurses Association of Metropolitan DC; Philippine Village Historical Site; Saahas for Cause; Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus; Sakura Foundation; SALDEF; SEIU 503-Asian Desi Pacific Islander (ADPI) Caucus; SHK Global Health; South Asian Public Health Association; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC); The Asian American Foundation (TAAF); The Cambodian Family Community Center; United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance – WA (UTOPIA Washington).

The full text of the bill is available here.

Senator Hirono has long advocated on behalf of AANHPI communities in Hawaii, the U.S., and Pacific Island nations and territories. Earlier this month, she introduced a resolution marking May 10, 2023 as AANHPI Mental Health Day. The U.S. Senate also unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Senator Hirono to mark May as AANHPI Heritage Month.