House Passes Bill to Address Racial Gaps in Youth Mental Health Care

the U.S. Capitol building


Contact: Sheryl Huggins Salomon

The Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act authorizes more than $805 million, and was drafted following a CBC Emergency Taskforce that called on NYU McSilver’s expertise.

(September 29, 2020) – Efforts by the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research to inform policymakers about troubling trends in Black youth mental health reached an important milestone today, when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5469, the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act, legislation authored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman to address the disparities in access, care and study of mental health issues among people of color. The bill, written following nine months of work by the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health, authorizes $805 million in grants and other funding to support research, improve the pipeline of culturally competent providers, build outreach programs that reduce stigma, and develop a training program for providers to effectively manage disparities.

Video courtesy of the office of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.

The Emergency Taskforce sought to identify causes and solutions, and empowered a working group of academic and practicing experts led by the NYU McSilver Institute and its Executive Director, Dr. Michael A. Lindsey. Last December the group produced a report to the taskforce, titled, Ring The Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman speaking while Dr. Michael A. Lindsey Rep. Karen Bass look on in 2019.
From left: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Dr. Michael A. Lindsey and CBC Chair Rep. Karen Bass, in April 2019 at the task force’s kickoff event.

“Suicide deaths and behaviors rising in black children and teens in ways that we have not seen before, and youth of color are especially vulnerable to mental health challenges as our nation grapples with the twin pandemics that are hitting our communities especially hard: COVID-19 and racism,” said Dr. Lindsey. “The Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act of 2019 is a crucial first step to address these trends, bring much-needed funding and resources for all youth, and direct resources toward more clinical research and interventions. We are grateful to Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, the bill’s co-sponsors and the Congressional Black Caucus for taking action to save young lives.”

“This is a huge step, and one we’ve been building toward since launching the emergency taskforce in April of 2019. When I began this work, it was out of a desire to bring federal resources to bear in what was clearly becoming a crisis – resources for awareness, for research, for education and more. That’s what the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act is all about,” said Rep. Watson Coleman, who chaired the Emergency Taskforce. “We put together a working group of experts, released a report, and finally introduced this bill to ring the alarm and force everyone to pay attention. This bill will give us the tools to address mental health for all communities, and I’m grateful to see it move on to the Senate.”

Companion legislation has been introduced by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV).

Read more about the H.R. 5469, the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act in a press release from the Office of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Or view the fact sheet.

About the McSilver Institute

The McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University is committed to creating new knowledge about the root causes of poverty, developing evidence-based interventions to address its consequences, and rapidly translating research findings into action through policy and best practices. Each year it holds the McSilver Awards, recognizing five extraordinary leaders transforming systems to tackle structural poverty and oppression. Learn more at and sign up for updates.

Photo of Dr. Michael A. Lindsey
Michael A. Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH
Dean of the Silver School of Social Work