Policy Institute advocates for online youth harm reduction

MHA Admin

Thu, 07/06/2023 – 16:41

by Caren Howard, MHA Director of Policy and Advocacy

In my role as director of policy and advocacy at Mental Health America, I have ongoing opportunities to lead annual policy meetings on prevention and early intervention of mental health conditions – some of which I have dealt with firsthand since middle school. Since the COVID-19 public health emergency, we have spent a great deal of time advocating for the public health response to include addressing mental health concerns – which are routinely excluded even though data shows schizophrenia was the number one co-occurring condition in people who died from COVID-19, higher than asthma, obesity, and cardio conditions.

At our 2023 National Policy Institute (held right before the start of our Annual Conference in early June), we went back to youth-focused discussions. Mental health condition signs manifest by age 14 in 50% of people who end up developing them, yet, on average, 12 years go by before individuals connect to services. With Gen Z in the middle of a pandemic, ongoing violence, and digital connectivity, this year was all about Tweens, Teens, and Technology. We discussed the internet and technology’s impact on youth mental health and substance use based on research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora Volkow and several psychologists who conduct annual studies on youth and media, including Dr. Yalda Tehranian-Uhls of Scholars and Storytellers and Monica Anderson of the Pew Research Center.

We highlighted which technology policies currently in front of Congress will help address harms. While 1 in 3 internet users is under age 18, California is the only state to enact an Age Appropriate Design Code Law (similar to the United Kingdom law by 5Rights Foundation) to ensure youth are not exploited and targeted online. No congressional action in the U.S. has been taken to hold technology companies accountable for social media harms even though youth report spending over eight hours a day on social media. In fact, much of the over $70 billion in revenue generated by Meta in 2020 can be attributed to advertisements to youth. The Senate Commerce Committee has previously taken up the Kids Online Safety Act, the closest bill we have to a national framework alongside the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, but has not yet done so in the 118th Congress.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission renewed and expanded its order to provide for “Blanket Prohibition Preventing Facebook from Monetizing Youth Data.” And, last year Congress funded a Center of Excellence for Adolescent Social Media Use. We greatly appreciate having its co-director Dr. Megan Moreno join the policy institute as a speaker alongside Haley Hinkle, policy counsel of Fairplay, and Alison Rice the youth initiatives campaign manager at Accountable Tech. MHA was honored to also highlight the work of Amelia Vance, chief counsel for The School Superintendents Association, Fred Dillion, head of advisory services at Hopelab, Dr. Erlanger Turner of Pepperdine University, and Mitch Prinstein, chief science officer of American Psychological Association.

We applaud the decades of work by these researchers and advocates in child online safety and privacy and call on Congress to heed the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommendations on Social Media and Youth Mental Health and enact a national standard to ensure online media protects youth from harm and encourages healthy exploration of topics and help-seeking behavior. Read the many reports by these leaders in the policy institute meeting agenda and watch the program here.

Sign a letter to Congress in support of the Kids Online Safety Act


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: