After considerable reflection and discussion with family and close friends, I have decided not to pursue any remedies in not meeting Tuesday’s filing deadline. While disappointed at the reality of not continuing to pursue a Congressional run, I have decided my energy, resources, and time are best spent with my daughter, clients, and patients.
I whole heartedly believe the people of Pittsburgh deserve an active and dedicated voice in Washington. Individuals with serious mental illness, individuals over or misrepresented in our justice system, as well as veterans in need of mental and physical health services after protecting our country, continue to be ignored by lawmakers and legislation. Regardless of a Congressional run, I remain tirelessly dedicated to these populations and their unheard voices.
Positive change does not come without adversity, challenges, and public scrutiny. I am tenaciously hopeful that conversations related to mental health and criminal justice reform will stay at the forefront of local and national discussions, leading to changes on a larger scale. They are needed, necessary, and unacceptably overdue.
A self-funded Congressional run without the public support of a party is difficult; I am deeply appreciative for the support of family, close friends, and the hundreds of people I was fortunate enough to meet when knocking on doors and attending community events. Encouragement from strangers who got to know me better, as well as the reinforcement from those I love, inspired me to remember why and who I was fighting for on the most challenging days.
I am grateful to return to my private practice work as a forensic psychologist providing mental health and criminal justice services to the people of Pittsburgh. I am thankful for any future opportunities that may arise to serve the public or my country in that capacity.
-Dr. Shannon Edwards
On the Issues
Mental Health Reform
Our nation is currently experiencing a mental health crisis. The most recent studies available, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA), are from 2014. While needing to be updated, they are still producing massive numbers of affected individuals and families.
An estimated 43.6 million Americans (18%) ages 18 and over have experienced a form of mental illness. Over 20.2 million adults (8.4%) had a substance use disorder in the last three years, and of these adults, 7.9 million people had both a mental health and substance use disorder. Serious Mental Illness is defined as a mental health disorder that causes serious functional impairment and includes individuals who have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or Major Depressive Disorder. Over 9.8 million Americans met these criteria in 2014. Each year, approximately 41,000 Americans die from Suicide. This has to stop.
Shannon will introduce legislation to address the mental health reform desperately needed in Pennsylvania and across our nation. Her background uniquely qualifies her as an expert in this area, as well as previously working on federal legislation related to mental health reform. She will work collaboratively with other providers, families, groups, organizations, and Members to accomplish this important and overdue task.
Criminal Justice Reform
Offenders with mental illness or substance abuse disorders have become so dominant across our correctional systems that jails and prisons are often referred to as “the new institutions.” Cook County Jail, Los Angeles County Jail, and New York Riker’s Island Jail are each populated with more mentally ill inmates than the psychiatric hospitals across the US (Treatment Advocacy Center, 2016). In Pennsylvania and across our nation, the heroin crisis is out of control; not only is there not enough treatment provided, we have become ignorant and unaware of the needs related to our communities and neighborhoods to address the issues at the ground level. Not only does it cost taxpayers three (3) times as much to imprison a mentally ill offender, there are established and safe ways to triage non-violent offenders to increase probability of rehabilitation and decrease relapse and recidivism.
Shannon will introduce legislation to address the diversion of non-violent, mentally ill offenders to treatment instead of correctional facilities. She will ensure informed-decision making processes are taking place for the people of Pittsburgh and their neighborhoods to increase their safety and decrease the heroin on the street. She will work collaboratively with others on legislation to address gaps between our mental health and criminal justice systems to increase safety in our communities and decrease taxpayer dollars spent on ineffective strategies.
Secondary and Post-Secondary Education
Secondary education has become complex and ideological when we can all agree: all children have a right to secondary education. Public education should be available with well-credentialed individuals who share the same belief. The type and quality of education a child receives should not be dependent on the area a family resides and funding incentives should be based on the superiority of teaching.
While post-secondary education is a privilege, our nation’s student loan availability and interest rates are simply out of control. Campus-based funding options, as well as funding allocations and appropriations, are in desperate need of amendments and restructuring. We cannot promise our children a brighter future, despite their hard work and dedication, while also sending them into the world without financial knowledge and massive amounts of debt.
Locally, Shannon will work with county and state lawmakers, organizations, families, and teachers to determine and assist with funding related to the Pittsburgh Promise. Shannon will introduce legislation to amend current Acts, bills, and laws related to how post-secondary education is funded and how loans are allocated. She will ensure informed-decision making processes are taking place for the people of Pittsburgh, individuals across the nation, and their neighborhoods, to determine how after-school programs are assessed, allocated, and funded. Statistically, afterschool programs increase children and youth’s self-esteem and academic performance while decreasing their time involved with delinquent and crime-producing behavior. Shannon will introduce legislation related to both secondary and post-secondary education, which involves informed decision-making with public and private institutions in mind.
Shannon’s personal positions on issues matter little when adversity and larger crises are affecting Pittsburghers and the nation at large. With regard to other issues affecting Pittsburghers and the nation: she is excited to meeting her constituents and hearing what they are satisfied with, what they need, and what Shannon can do for them. She hopes you will join her on this journey – we’re in this together!