While the debate over health care reform has progressed over the last 15 years, mental health is frequently – and unfairly – overlooked.

According to a conservative estimate from the GAO, over 2.4 million Americans between the ages of 18-26 suffer from a serious mental illness (SMI). Unfortunately, this population has significantly higher rates of unemployment, incarceration, suicide, inadequate housing, as well as lower rates of continuing education. Despite the alarming statistics, our mental health system contains serious gaps that make it difficult for young adults to find treatment after the age of 18, leaving them unassisted as they make the difficult transition to adulthood.

This is why Reps. Mary Bono Mack, Dave Camp and I this week introduced the Healthy Transitions Act, H.R. 2691, which will assist state and federal agencies in developing programs to give youths suffering from SMIs the tools they need to make the transition to adulthood. This legislation focuses on expanding successful federal programs like the Partnership for Youth in Transition Demonstration, as well as providing state and local governments with the grants they need to establish adequate mental healthcare programs of their own.

I believe that it is our responsibility to assist young adults as they navigate our fragmented mental health system. This legislation aims to fill in the cracks in the system, and addresses a problem that has gone untreated for too long.

For more information on the legislation, please click here.