Rosalynn Carter’s advocacy in mental health honored in Rep. Carter’s bipartisan resolution

A bipartisan resolution introduced on May 22 by U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) would honor the legacy of mental health advocacy by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who the congressman called “a stalwart advocate for mental health in this country.”

“Her many years of advocacy and service have no doubt saved countless lives of those affected by mental health disorders and substance use disorders,” Rep. Carter said on Wednesday. “May is Mental Health Awareness Month and serves as a perfect time to honor the remarkable former First Lady for the life of service that she so faithfully led.”

Rep. Carter sponsored House Resolution (H.Res.) 1251 alongside lead original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) to honor the mental health work of Rosalynn Carter, who died on Nov. 19, 2023.

“At a time when many saw mental health conditions as weakness, Mrs. Carter chose compassion and empathy to see the humanity and strength in patients who deserved treatment and care,” said Rep. Dingell. “While there’s still progress to be made, I’m proud to join Rep. Buddy Carter to continue honoring her legacy, because we could not have come this far without her tireless work and advocacy.”

Since 1970, when her husband, future President of the United States Jimmy Carter, was a candidate for the Governor of Georgia, Rosalynn Carter was a leading advocate for raising awareness about mental health and substance use disorder, according to the text of the resolution.

She emerged as a national driving force for mental health when, during Jimmy Carter’s administration, Rosalynn Carter became the active honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health, which resulted in passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. The law reformed publicly funded mental health programs, the text says.

Additionally, from 1985 to 2016, Mrs. Carter hosted the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, and in 1990 led establishment of the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program.

In 1996, Mrs. Carter established the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, and in 2008 played a key role in supporting the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which helps ensure that mental health disorders and substance use disorders are covered by insurance at parity with other illnesses.

If enacted, H.Res. 1251 would encourage all people of the United States “to follow Mrs. Carter’s example of putting compassion into action through a lifetime of service to humanity,” states the text.

The Carter Center endorsed the resolution, which has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.