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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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September 12, 2002

House Leaders Press for Action on FY 2003 Spending Bill for Research and Services

With the beginning of the new federal fiscal year only weeks away, key members of the House of Representatives are pushing to move forward on appropriations legislation that includes funding for mental illness research and services programs. The FY 2003 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (S 2766/HR 5320) includes the budgets for a wide range of health and human services agencies, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). Congress is supposed to complete action on the Labor-HHS spending bill before the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

Funding for Mental Illness Research and Services Programs at Stake

The fate of budget increases for key NAMI priorities at NIMH and CMHS are tied to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. For mental illness research at NIMH, FY 2003 marks the final installment of the 5-year bipartisan effort in Congress to double the biomedical research budget at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both the President's budget and the Senate Labor-HHS bill propose $1.359 billion for NIMH -- $111 million above the FY 2002 level (a 7.8% increase). While NAMI supports this large increase for NIMH, it is worth noting that it is far below the 13.8% average increase for recommended for the 13 separate research institutes (covering everything from diabetes, heart disease, cancer and AIDS).

Action Requested

All NAMI advocates are encouraged to contact their House member in support of a strong Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that includes increases for both mental illness research and services programs at NIMH and CMHS. It is especially important for NAMI advocates to urge House members to support a larger funding allocation for the Labor-HHS bill, i.e. closer to the Senate level of $136.7 billion. This larger allocation will allow House leaders to include increases for FY 2003 for important research and services programs including:

  1. a 13.8% increase for mental illness research at NIMH - the same as the average across all the institutes at NIH,
  2. an increase for the $433 million Mental Health Block Grant program - with specific guidance to states to target any increase toward replication of evidence-based programs such as assertive community treatment (ACT),
  3. the President's request for an additional $7 million for the PATH program serving homeless individuals with severe mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse disorders,
  4. restoration of funding for the CMHS Community Action Grants program aimed at helping states, public mental health authorities and allied groups such as NAMI affiliates replicate evidence-based practices such as ACT, peer support and Family-To-Family programs, and
  5. full funding of $10 million for the CMHS Jail Diversion program and full funding ($10 million) for the Justice Department's Mental Health Courts program
    (Note - the Mental Health Courts program is included in the separate Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill, S 2778).

All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org. Additional background on the FY 2003 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill is available by clicking here. More details on research and services programs of concern to NAMI can be found by viewing NAMI testimony to the House Appropriations Committee.

Action on the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill Appears Stalled Despite the pressure from House leaders and the White House to meet this deadline, there does not appear to be sufficient support for passing a Labor-HHS spending bill unless additional funds are added to supplement the budget requests for these agencies put forward by President Bush earlier this year. Overall, the President requested $129.9 billion for all the federal agencies and programs under the Labor-HHS bill for FY 2003. House Republican leaders had hoped to push forward a Labor-HHS spending bill at this level. By contrast, the Labor-HHS bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in July totaled $136.7 billion. President Bush and key House leaders are resisting efforts to add funds to the House bill to bring it closer to the Senate bill.

In the absence of an agreement, members of Congress may be forced to pass a temporary funding measure just prior to October 1 to keep these agencies running past the expected adjournment date (most likely, the week of October 7). Failure to reach agreement on the Labor-HHS spending bill will also result in Congress having to convene a "lame duck" session after the election in November. Despite the uncertain outlook for action on the Labor-HHS spending bill, it is still important for members of Congress to hear from NAMI advocates about the need for increases in research and services programs at NIMH and CMHS. This is especially the case as the process drags on throughout the fall and pressure builds to resolve differences between Congress and the Bush Administration over spending priorities.

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