State Mental Health Cuts Continue: Take Action Today
State budget cuts continue to jeopardize mental health systems across the country and NAMI advocates are fighting to preserve and strengthen mental health care in every state.
NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick recently spoke with the Associated Press about the bleak outlook on state mental health systems, noting that even in states like Oklahoma, which made exceptional progress in recent years, state budget cuts may threaten any advancements.
Pete Earley examines the unfulfilled promises of Virginia's mental health system in The Washington Post. Just two years after then-Governor Kaine signed legislation to improve Virginia's mental healthcare system following the Virginia Tech tragedy, the assured reforms have fallen short due to repeated budget cuts.
In fact, Governor McDonnell's recent proposed budget would leave mental health services with less money than was available in 2007 before the Virginia Tech tragedy. Earley notes that ironically, there are many effective Virginia treatment programs that over time may reduce the need for tax dollars.
Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota, recently spoke with Minnesota Public Radio about the severe impact that state budget cuts, including eliminating 200 full-time positions from a program that provides care for Minnesotans with mental illness, will have on the community.
Watch Bill Kehoe, executive director of NAMI Mississippi, warn of severe consequences Governor Barbour's proposed cuts would have on people affected by mental illness.
Take Action: Build Relationships with Representatives
For advocates living in states where legislators are still in session, this is not the time to give up. More than ever, elected officials need to hear from their constituents. Tell your legislators how you have been impacted by serious mental illness, and how cuts to mental health services can cause real pain in shifted costs, negatively affecting families, communities and the economy.
If your legislative session is on recess, or has ended, this is still an ideal time to engage elected officials. The next fiscal year is expected to be as much, if not more, daunting than the current year. By building relationships with elected officials and keeping mental health in the forefront of their minds, you are taking critical actions to make mental health a priority in the next legislative session.
Legislators may be more relaxed and approachable while they are back in their home district. Take advantage of this by building your relationships with these easy steps:
- Study your representatives' backgrounds and interests
- Frame your advocacy concerns related to their legislative and personal priorities
- Tell them how cuts to mental health services have impacted you and your family
- Ask for their leadership to restore mental health services
- Offer to serve as a mental health resource
NAMI makes it easy to stay connected with your representatives. Make your voice heard. Visit www.nami.org/stateadvocacy/action to find your legislators' contact information and schedule a meeting--or write to them using the online form.
NAMI's state advocacy Web site, www.nami.org/stateadvocacy, offers additional tools for grassroots advocates to use with legislators, the news media and others.
Help NAMI track what is happening nationwide. If you see a news story about mental health budget cuts in your state or community, please send a Web site link to Christine Armstrong. Please also tell us about any personal experiences that you, family or friends currently are having as a result of state budget cuts.