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National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day 2014

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Washington, D.C.
May 6, 2014

Thank you so much, Pam. Pam Hyde does a phenomenal job leading SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  

I also want to say that I’m delighted to join the de Blasio family.

There’s a great story about President Lyndon Johnson.  Supposedly one day when things were particularly tough-going in the White House he turned to an aide and said.  “You know, things are tough.  But it could be worse.  At least I can take solace in the fact I’m not a big-city mayor.”

And I can say that as up-and-down as things were during our open enrollment period, I sometimes thought to myself, “Well at least I’m not mayor of New York City!”

Mayor de Blasio is a terrific leader.  We’ve had the chance to work together on New York state’s new Medicaid waiver, which is an example of how – with innovation and new thinking – we can improve the quality of care we deliver to our fellow citizens. 

You know, when I had the honor of serving as Governor of Kansas, I was the first daughter of a former governor to serve as a governor myself.  And I think we might see something similar in the de Blasio family.  Wouldn’t Chiara make a great mayor some day?

Hearts & Minds

I’m going to call up Chiara in a moment, so we can recognize her for the courage and leadership we heard about earlier in the video. But first I just wanted to say a few words on why Chiara’s voice is so important.

Three-quarters of adult mental health conditions appear by the age of 24. 

But too many adults fail to recognize the signs of mental illness or addiction in young people.  And too many kids don’t feel safe enough to ask for help. 

You know, it takes a lot of courage – not just to go and get help in the first place, but also to speak up about it so that other people will have the courage to get help themselves.    

We need to move beyond the idea in this country, that when we talk about mental health conditions or addiction, we’re talking about somebody else.  It’s not somebody else.  It’s all of us.

We need to get to a place in this country where everyone feels comfortable accessing treatment without the fear of getting judged, to a place where anyone feels as comfortable saying they are going for counseling as they are for a flu shot or for physical therapy.

That’s why, at the President’s request, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and I launched a national dialogue on mental health.  And Americans are joining in this dialogue in local communities across our country, that is bringing these issues out of the shadows. 

Getting Young People the Proper Support

When it comes to young people especially, we know that recovery from behavior health and substance use challenges is attainable with the proper support. 

The deal we ought to be able to make with a young person is that if you have the courage to ask for help, we’ll make sure it’s accessible to you.  

We are in the midst of the largest expansion of mental health and substance use services in a generation.  The combination of the Parity Rule and the Affordable Care Act will expand coverage to more than 60 million Americans.  And as a result, fewer of our young people risk “aging out” of services as they get older.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, your insurance company now has to offer you preventive services – including screenings for alcohol abuse and depression, and behavioral assessments for children – all without copays or other out-of-pocket fees.

And neither young people nor their parents can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. 

It’s also more affordable than ever before to get covered in the first place:

  • You are now allowed to stay on your parents’ plan until age 26. 
  • Millions of Americans are getting covered through Medicaid – particularly in those states that are moving forward with expansion.
  • And the more than 8 million Americans who signed up for a Marketplace insurance plan during open enrollment are a testament to the affordability and accessibility of private Marketplace coverage.

In addition to expanding access to services, we’ve been investing to make sure that these services are widely available to patients in their own communities.  Through the Now Is the Time Initiative, we’re investing to train more mental health professionals.  And we’re also helping teachers identify conditions their students may have, along with the resources that are available to refer them too. 

Conclusion: Award to Chiara de Blasio

Ultimately, in order to access these services young people need to feel comfortable coming forward.  And often once they do, they find out that they’re not alone – and that members of their families, their churches or synagogues, their schools, and their neighborhoods have come forward as well. 

With this in mind, I want to bring up Chiara de Blasio – and present her with our Special Recognition Award for her resilience and for her courage in speaking out about her own experiences – and for being an inspiring, hopeful voice for young adults.

Chiara – thank you for all that you do, and congratulations!


Content created by Assist. Sec./Public Affairs - Speechwriting Division
Content last reviewed on June 13, 2014