Sixth Congressional Democratic Candidate Jamie Zahlaway Belsito on Mental Health
Editors Note – This submission related to the 2020 Election for Reading. Massachusetts’s 6th congressional district covers the cities of Amesbury, Beverly, Gloucester, Lynn, Newburyport, Peabody, and Salem and the towns of Bedford, Billerica, Boxford, Burlington, Danvers, Essex, Georgetown, Groveland, Hamilton, Ipswich, Lynnfield, Manchester, Marblehead, Merrimac, Middleton, Nahant, Newbury, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Rockport, Rowley, Salisbury, Saugus, Swampscott, Topsfield, Wakefield, Wilmington, Wenham, and West Newbury.
This past week’s local news has highlighted the challenges that the 6th district is facing around mental health. There have been articles in the Lynn Daily Item, the Eagle-Tribune and the Salem News touching upon opioid-addicted babies, growing suicide deaths, and the impending closing of the Beverly Hospital day treatment outpatient program for mental health and addiction this coming Friday, September 13th. Did you know that suicide is the #1 reason why postpartum mothers are dying in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? It is a deadly mix of lack of treatment, self-medicating with substances and mental health challenges. Our citizens and communities are crying out for help.
The Beverly Hospital day treatment outpatient program for mental health and addiction directly aided and supported my family. The proximity of Beverly Hospital was essential to the health and wellness of an immediate family member. It was the entry point for access to services like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, psychiatrists, general practitioners, social workers and an established community hospital network that was able to acknowledge that both mental and physical health are equally relevant to a healthy lifestyle. When I shared the sad news with my family member who was fortunate to attend the outpatient program at Beverly Hospital, I was met with an “Oh no, that is terrible. I would have never been able to get help had that program not been in Beverly. Their CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and proximity to where I lived, saved my life”.
The “Moms Do Care” program at Beverly Hospital came dangerously close to shutting its doors this past summer. Only one of a handful of programs of its kind in the country, “Moms Do Care” provides treatment for pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorder. Over 70+ families in the district have benefited from this successful program, that needs continued
financial support. We should never have to experience almost closing a program that is saving Mothers and babies in order to receive adequate funding to take care of some of our most vulnerable community members.
In a time of unprecedented urgency and need for immediate access to life-saving mental health and substance use support services, communities need expanded access to services, not consolidation, relocation, and termination of programs.
By drawing upon my own experience with my own mental health challenges, I was able to affect change at the federal level for thousands of women across the United States, as well as right here in my community. With 2 decades of federal legislative experience ranging from immigration, mental health, education, and maternal wellness, I will not back down from discussing and addressing the difficult and stigmatized issues that so many of our friends and families are facing, when it comes to accessing mental health and substance use services and support systems.
As I seek to become your future Congressional representative, I promise that I will not stop advocating for the well-being of our communities, including relevant and necessary access to community health services.
Jamie Zahlaway Belsito
Candidate for United States Congress 6th Congressional District