The U.S. Senate will soon begin considering legislation covering FY 2004 funding for federal agencies and programs that include important federal investments for mental illness research. This bill, known as Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (S 1356) includes the proposed 2004 budgets for both the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Because of tight budget constraints and a growing federal budget deficit, neither the House nor the Senate version of the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill includes sufficient increases for needed investments in research and services on severe mental illness. For example, the House bill limits the increase for overall medical research at the National Institutes of Health (including NIMH) to only 2.5% (the same amount requested by President Bush). While the Senate bill increases NIH by 3.7% (or $1 billion), both of these increases are far below the 10% to 12% increases enacted in recent years as Congress moved to double the federal investment in medical research.
When the full Senate takes up S 1356 in early September Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) plan to offer an amendment to increase the overall NIH budget by $2.5 billion, or 9.2%. This would include a proportionate increase for the NIMH. Because this amendment will require a waiver the overall cap on spending imposed on the entire Labor-HHS Appropriations bill, 60 votes will be needed in order pass the Specter-Harkin-Feinstein amendment.
NAMI advocates are urged to contact their Senators to urge them to support the Specter-Harkin-Feinstein amendment to increase medical research funding – including mental illness research at the NIMH. All Senators can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org. Or contact your Representatives online now in the Take Action section of www.nami.org, using our sample letter.
The House passed its version of the FY 2004 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (HR 2660) on July 10 by a narrow 215-208 margin. The House bill limits the increase for overall NIH budget to only 2.5% (the same amount requested by President Bush for FY 2004). Currently, a bipartisan coalition, led by Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA), Chris Bell (D-TX), Mark Foley (R-FL) and Jim Leach (R-IA) is circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter to House leaders urging at least an 8 to 10% increase for the NIH for FY 2004. NAMI advocates are urged to contact their House member to strongly encourage them to sign on to this important effort to ensure a larger increase for NIH and NIMH for FY 2004.