US Senate candidate Britt, in Decatur, focuses on mental health, border policy

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  • Wesley Britt
    Player of American football
  • Richard Shelby
    American politician

Nov. 2—The nation needs to spend more on improving access to mental health programs and securing the border with Mexico, a U.S. Senate candidate said Monday while in Decatur.

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Katie Britt, a Republican from Montgomery, said her time as chief of staff and communications director for Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, gave her a "front-row seat" on how to tackle these challenges.

Britt, speaking at the Rotary Noon Club, said judges, law enforcement and school officials say dealing with people with mental health issues is the No. 1 problem they face every day.

"There are currently programs, pilot programs, at the federal level that have to be tackled with local, state and federal leaders working together to figure out how to move that (issue) forward," the 39-year-old said. "Access to mental health care in Alabama is 46th in the nation. We have to make some strides and elevate this to face this problem head on."

She said an average of 22 military veterans commit suicide each day, and that more veterans have killed themselves since 2008 than all American military personnel killed in the Vietnam War.

"We need to make sure our veterans are treated like the first-class citizens that they are," said Britt, a native of Enterprise, near the Army's Fort Rucker in southeast Alabama. "We need to make sure veterans receive the benefits they deserve."

Britt also focused on the southern border, saying the Biden administration's border policy is leading to crises of "epic proportion."

"Unfortunately, every state has become a border state under this administration, putting immigrants on buses and planes and moving them across the country," she said.

She said 20% of immigrants crossing the border say they are heading to Florida.

"There's no way to get from Texas to Florida without coming through Alabama," she said.

The southern border, she asserted, is contributing to domestic drug problems.

"We have to stop this in national security interest but also to end the humanitarian crisis that is occurring there every day," Britt said. "We are catching about 41 criminals a day and 3,677 pounds of drugs. There is so much fentanyl coming from China through Mexico across our borders, it could kill every single American four times over."

She also said China is stealing U.S. intellectual property and technology. She cited the hypersonic weapon China launched in July, which she said was based on American technology.

She also was critical of federal supplements to unemployed workers during the pandemic.

"That fundamentally shifts the fabric of this nation," she said. "We need to rein in government spending."

Britt said Alabama will need to invest between $4 billion and $6 billion to solve its broadband connectivity problems, mostly linked to rural parts of the state.

"Mommas shouldn't have to drive to McDonald's so their kids can get access to the internet to do their homework," she said. "Our 8-year-olds deserve better. No child's ZIP code should determine their opportunity."

She said poor educational opportunities in the early school years lead to a higher dropout rate. "If they don't graduate, the chance of getting arrested goes up five times," she said. "Ninety percent of the people on welfare didn't graduate high school."

She criticized the federal government for handcuffing agriculture with regulations. She said 1 in 5 jobs in Alabama is tied to agribusiness. "Food security is national security," she said.

Having served in the Senate since 1986, Shelby, 87, is not seeking reelection.

"This is an important time in our state to have tough leaders," Britt said. "We need new blood, fresh blood. We need somebody who will fight for our Christian, conservative values. Somebody to make sure hardworking Alabamians have a seat at the table and somebody to get things done. That's me."

Rotarian Ronnie Dukes said he was impressed with the substance of Britt's 39-minute talk.

"She talked a lot of about the need of strong leadership to bring this country together," he said. "We're so divided. We need people and leaders working for the good of the country."

Britt, who has a law degree from the University of Alabama, stepped down as the president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama to run for U.S. Senate.

She is opposed in the Republican primary by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, former ambassador Lynda Blanchard, retired Army pilot and Huntsville businessman Michael Durant and businesswoman Jessica Taylor.

Britt and her husband Wesley Britt, who played football at the University of Alabama and in the NFL, have two children and live in Montgomery.

mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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