NAMI
National Alliance on Mental Illness
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For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 3, 2005

NAMI TENNESSEE LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR THE MIND OF AMERICA WITH REPORT ON THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM

MARCH 3, Nashville, TN – NAMI Tennessee and national and state partners will gather in Nashville for the release of the Campaign for the Mind of America’s report, "A Shared State of Mind: Finding Common Solutions for Funding of Mental Health Services in Tennessee." This report, based upon a compilation of literature and actual experiences of states across the country, outlines the scope of the mental health crisis in Tennessee.

Nearly 1.3 million of Tennessee citizens are eligible for treatment and services through the state’s Medicaid program (TennCare), and with recent budget proposals 323,000, or 25 percent, of these citizens will have no where to turn for mental health treatment. The Campaign report outlines the impact of these budget cuts on people living with mental illnesses as well as the communities in which they reside.

"As a presiding judge in our county’s courts, I see the consequences of the neglect suffered by persons living with mental illness - these people need treatment, medication, housing and employment, not incarceration," said Davidson County Mental Health Court Judge, Dan Eisenstein.

"TennCare is a vital program for people with mental illness; it provides access to needed community based services and supports," said Nancy Lawhead, Special Assistant to Mayor Wharton of Memphis. . "TennCare provides individuals the best opportunity to achieve first treatment and ultimately recovery from these life threatening illnesses."

NAMI Tennessee, national experts, and statewide partners will be encouraging policymakers to make smart budget decision and implement services and supports that will benefit consumers with mental illness, their families, the community, and the state.

"I am excited about this report as it provides state policy makers credible options that can save lives and, at the same time, be fiscally responsible. We should take pause and learn form the experiences of others before embarking on this dangerous path," stated Sita Diehl, executive director of NAMI Tennessee.

The report provides alternative Medicaid funding strategies and possible tools to preserve access to a full range of medications. Evidence suggests that systems that allow access to services and supports are economically viable in the long-run.

"While cutting mental health services and treatments may result in apparent short term budget savings, the long term impact of untreated mental disorders is much greater," said Ken Duckworth, Medical Director, NAMI National. "The Campaign for the Mind of America is working in Tennessee to ensure that as the state faces tough fiscal choices, they make smart decisions."

Untreated mental illness costs the nation more than $100 billion annually to lost productivity. When the diverted resources of those in law enforcement, education, and health care that are acting as the de facto front line of mental health treatment are added, the cost rises to more than $100 billion per year.

"In every community, this public crisis is having devastating effects on education, law enforcement, health care and business, " said Duckworth. "Community leaders know this impact and understand the effects of a failed system. We stand together to try to solve this problem in a new way."

View the full report.

View photo's from the launch press conference

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