Perhaps the best definition of advocacy was voiced by Eleanor Roosevelt(quote): "You must do the things you think you cannot do" In facing the stigma and shame that still surrounds mental illness, we are tested by many challenges. Each of us has had to break through boundaries of fear and convention to help our family member; each of us has felt the discrimination that exists against people who have brain disorders. In our struggle to "stand with" and "stand up for" our loved ones, we are all advocates.
NAMI MO 2013 Legislative Session Wrap up
Bills Passed, Failed and Vetoed
While a number of bill were passed in 2013, little was done to benefit children and adults with mental health needs and their families. Passed bills included a bill stating MO need not comply with any gun regulation legislation passed by Congress, a bill outlawing Sharia (Islamic) Law in Missouri and a massive tax reform bill which would trigger taxes on prescription medications and cut funding for education, social services and health. Governor Nixon has vetoed these bills. Missouri’s veto session is set for September 11, 2013.
A bill to reign in medication “fail first” practices of some managed care companies was filed and heard. It fell victim to other, more high profile legislation and did not make it onto either floor. This bill is in its 5th year and will be refilled again in 2014.
The exemption making all prescription antipsychotics available through Missouri Medicaid stood for another year. NAMI and its colleague organizations defend this provision every year, so far we have been successful.
Missouri Ticket to Work program was threatened, but upheld.
Missouri’s pilot program targeting persons with mental illness who also have serious health challenges continues to show good outcomes health wise and cost savings. This has helped advocates prevent our state from contracting with a large (for-profit) behavioral health management company.
Medicaid Expansion, the ACA
Bills to expand Medicaid to 138% ($15,856 annual income) of the federal poverty level looked promising, but were shut down in the final days of session. Votes fell along party lines with Republicans opposing expansion and Democrats supporting.
An April rally to expand Medicaid brought more than 2000 supporters to the state capitol and Governor Nixon launched a whirlwind tour of educational presentations across our state. All hearings on expansions were filled with supporters and NAMI MO’s own John O’Rear’s testimony was distributed through U Tube. The opponents were not swayed.
Last years bill stating Missouri and its state employees shall not participate in any part of the Affordable Care Law, means Missourians will be allowed to enroll for lower cost health insurance through the Federal Marketplace/Exchange. Lower income individuals and families will qualify for subsidies. For example, a mom with two kids can get coverage for $34 a month regardless of any preexisting conditions. Enrollment opens Oct. 1, 2013. Coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2014.
Medicaid Expansion, Next Steps
One Senate and two House Committees are hearing testimony and studying a potential reform of MO Medicaid over the summer. To date hearings have been held in Jefferson City, Springfield and Independence. Turn out among those supporting expansion was strong in Springfield and Jefferson City. One House committee is comprised of legislators and citizens. NAMI members Ruth Ehrsmann and John O’Rear were appointed to this committee.
MO DMH released a report in April detailing the significant positive impact Medicaid Expansion would have on persons with mental illness. Medicaid Expansion is our state’s best chance to address lack of access to treatment and out bed shortage. Additionally, it eliminates the Medicaid spend down and the $999 asset limit as income alone will be a qualifying factor for Medicaid up to 138% of the poverty level.
Much advocacy is needed on this issue.
Monies Appropriated for Mental Health, Post Newtown Tragedy
The horrific shooting of elementary school children in Newtown, Conn. focused national attention on mental health. NAMI MO had opportunities to speak with media sources about our state’s tattered mental health safety net.
A special meeting in the Governor’s office in late December resulted in a proposal to add 10.5 million to the DMH budget for community services to address/prevent mental health crises. NAMI MO advocated for families as an important resource for averting crisis. The proposal passed resulting in monies for Mental Health Fist Aid, crisis workers in some mental health centers, family education and support and more.
7-19-2013 C. Keele
John Orear Testimony on HB 700