Government Affairs and Advocacy

Feb. 27 Federal Update: Sen. Fetterman Builds Mental Health Awareness on the Hill

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February 27, 2023

On Feb. 15, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) voluntarily checked himself in to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to receive treatment for clinical depression, setting off a heated national debate about self-care and leadership. While on the campaign trail last year, Fetterman suffered a stroke which impacted his cognitive abilities and reportedly led to his current bout of depression. By seeking care, Fetterman demonstrates solidarity with millions of people in this country suffering from depression. By publicly announcing his decision, he also helps to eliminate the stigma behind seeking mental health care, particularly in the workplace. He is part of a growing line of prominent figures, like Simone Biles and Jason Kander, who have modeled a new approach to mental health challenges.

The social sector, like other sectors, is making progress toward breaking down the stigma around mental health. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when instances of suicide ideation, addiction, and anxiety began to increase rapidly, more organizations and leaders have begun to engage openly with mental health challenges in the workforce. One helpful resource is Mental Health First Aid at Work, a training program that gives participants the tools to support co-workers with mental health or substance use issues. Another resource, Up to Me from WISE, guides individuals through whether and how to safely disclose their mental illness to others, if they so choose.

Social Current offers workforce resilience consulting to help social sector leaders build a workplace culture based on equity, connection, and psychological safety.

President Biden Signs New Equity Executive Order

On Feb. 16, President Biden signed an executive order to support racial equity and strengthen the federal government’s efforts to combat systemic racism and poverty. This builds upon another executive order he signed on the first day of his presidency which advanced an all-of-government approach to eliminating systemic inequities of all kinds. The new executive order requires federal agencies to create annual equity action plans that steer policies and programs toward underserved communities. Per the order, as agencies develop their plans, they must actively and frequently engage with local communities and organizations. Further, agency equity teams must be created in each agency, with high-ranking leaders implementing equity plans while working across agencies to foster collaboration and accountability. Finally, the executive order requires a more comprehensive, detailed collection and analysis of demographic data.

2021 Child Abuse and Neglect Report Released

The Children’s Bureau within the Department of Health and Human Services released the latest version of its annual series, “Child Maltreatment 2021.” Drawn from data provided by states to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), the series details the nature and extent of child abuse and neglect cases across the country each year. The 2021 report found Child Protective Services responded to referrals of over three million children through investigation or other means. In 2021, an estimated six hundred thousand children were victims of maltreatment (the lowest number in the last five years). Of those children, 76 percent were neglected, 16 percent physically abused, 10.1 percent sexually abused, and 0.2 percent sex trafficked. Tragically, 1,820 children died from abuse and neglect. 67 percent of reporters were professionals, including education, medical, legal, and law enforcement personnel, 17.1 percent were nonprofessionals (friends, neighbors, and relatives), and 16 percent were unclassified, including anonymous and unknown sources.

Announcement of New Emergency Food Assistance Funding

As part of a $1 billion investment in the country’s emergency food system, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set aside $100 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Reach and Resiliency grant initiative. $60 million in round-two grant funding is available to pursue the program’s goal of extending TEFAP’s impact to remote, rural, tribal, and low-income areas currently neglected by the program. In round one, grantee states received $40 million. They worked with food banks on various activities, including studies and surveys, cultural competency training, mobile food bank infrastructure, equipment and technology purchases, and proactive outreach to tribal areas.

Social Current, APHSA Partner to Co-Create New Framework for Community-Based and Public Sector Human Services Leaders

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Social Current have a long history of collaboration. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the two organizations will continue partnering to develop a new leadership framework for health and human services leaders to work together across system boundaries.

Read more in this article by APHSA President and CEO Tracy Wareing Evans and Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson from the latest edition of Policy & Practice.

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