National Alliance on Mental Illness
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March 20, 2003
Family Opportunity Act Re-Introduced in the Senate
On March 13, Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Kennedy (D-MA) reintroduced the Family Opportunity Act of 2003 (S. 622) with over 55 cosponsors. This bipartisan legislation was originally introduced three years ago and has had tremendous support in both the Senate and the House. NAMI greatly appreciates the efforts of both Senators in continuing to support this important bill and for their work to remove barriers for children with mental illnesses and their families. Last year, the bill's sponsors and advocates worked until the very end of the 107th Congress to pass this much needed legislation, however in the end, sponsors in both the House and Senate were unable to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. NAMI will again strongly support the Family Opportunity Act and will push for its enactment this year.
The Family Opportunity Act is intended to end the financial devastation that families too often encounter in attempting to access quality treatment for their children with severe mental illnesses. S. 622 is legislation that restores hope for children with severe mental illnesses and their families. Under the bill, states would be able to offer Medicaid coverage to children with severe disabilities living in families with incomes up to 250% of poverty the ability to buy-in to the Medicaid program. Cost-sharing on a sliding scale up to the full premium cost would be required with protections for lower income families. Currently, families must stay impoverished, turn down promotions, place their child in an out of home placement or simply give up custody in order to secure the health care services their child needs under Medicaid.
Another key provision would allow states the option to include children receiving hospital psychiatric services under home and community-based waivers. FOA would also establish "Family to Family Health Information Centers." These programs would assist and support families of children with disabilities and/or special health care needs. Staffed by both parents of children with special needs and professionals, these Centers would provide technical assistance and information to families on health care programs and services available and appropriate for children with disabilities and/or special needs.
All NAMI members and advocates are urged to call their members of Congress and ask them to join Senators Grassley and Kennedy in cosponsoring this important legislation. Let them know that this bipartisan bill is critical to helping children and families with severe mental illnesses. If your members of Congress cosponsored FOA in the 107th Congress, call and thank them for their support last year, and let them know you are counting on them this year to pass FOA in the 108th Congress. If your members have already joined Senators Grassley and Kennedy as cosponsor, please thank them for their support and let them know that it is critical to pass FOA this year-and that thousands of families are counting on them.
Also-send your messages to the White House. Let President Bush know that you want the Family Opportunity Act of 2003 signed into law this year!
All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online.