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July 23, 2002

Senate Committee Approves Funding for Mental Illness Research and Services Program

This past week Congress began action on spending legislation for mental illness research and services for the coming federal fiscal year that will begin on October 1. The massive $136.7 billion FY 2003 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (S2766) includes important increases for mental illness research and services programs, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). The bill reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 18 would allocate $5.8 billion more than President Bush requested - a 7% increase over current year totals. The House has not begun work on its version of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill and not expected to until after the coming August recess.

For programs of concern to NAMI - at both NIMH and CMHS - there are important increases in the Senate bill. For biomedical research, the bill includes a $3.7 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - completing the five-year bipartisan effort to double the NIH budget began in 1998 (bringing the FY 2003 budget for NIH up to $27 billion). For CMHS, the Senate holds most programs at their current level and accepts the President’s request for a $7 million increase for PATH. A separate appropriations bill that covers funding for the U.S. Justice Department includes an additional $3 million in funding for the Mental Health Courts program.

As Congress moves forward on the FY 2003 spending bill, NAMI will be pressing members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Bush Administration on a number of key funding priorities for research and services programs. Specifically, NAMI will be asking that the final version of the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill includes:

  1. An increase for mental illness research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at least equal to the overall 13.8% boost for the entire NIH, and
  2. Targeted increases for key programs at CMHS such as the Mental Health Block Grant, PATH (services for homeless individuals with mental illness) and community action grants targeted to replication of evidence-based programs.

More details on research and services programs of concern to NAMI can be found by viewing NAMI’s testimony to the House Appropriations Committee on the FY 2003 Labor-HHS-Education bill.

NIMH

As was noted above, the Senate bill contains an overall increase for NIH of $3.7 billion, up to $27 billion, a 13.8% increase. As noted above, this increase would complete the five-year effort to double the NIH budget. At the same time, the increase recommended for NIMH is below the average increase for the NIH as a whole. Specifically, the Senate bill recommends $1.359 billion for NIMH, $111 million more than current funding or a 7.8% increase. This is the same amount recommended by President Bush in his FY 2003 budget proposal.

CMHS

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill proposes to increase overall funding for the Center for Mental Health Services (part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA) by $12 million in FY 2003. Below is a summary of funding levels for selected programs of concern to children and adults with severe mental illnesses and their families:

  1. Mental Health Block Grant - The Senate bill proposes to freeze the Mental Health Block Grant (a state formula grant program financing services for adults with severe mental illnesses and children with severe emotional disturbances) at its current level of $433 million.
  2. PATH - The Senate accepts the Bush Administration’s request for a $7 million increase for the PATH program (a formula grant program that funds community-based services for homeless individuals with mental illness), bringing funding up to $46.9 million.
  3. Programs of Regional and National Significance (PRNS) - The Senate bill rejects the Bush Administration’s proposal to cut the PRNS account (CMHS’s discretionary budget) by $7.5 million - a cut that would have been achieved by discontinuing a number of technical assistance centers and new community action grant programs. PRNS is the discretionary budget for CMHS, i.e. funds under federal control of CMHS, as opposed to the Mental Health Block Grant and PATH that are formula grant programs to the states. The Senate bill specifically adds back $5.5 million for new and ongoing community action grants. A number of NAMI affiliates have utilized these grants to develop jail diversion and other initiatives in their communities. The Senate bill also adds $2 million for renewal of separate national technical assistance centers focused on consumers, consumer-supporters, families with children and programs of assertive community treatment (PACT). Finally, the Senate bill proposes $5 million to continue a new senior citizen program at CMHS.
  4. Jail Diversion - The Senate bill includes the $1 million increase recommended by the Bush Administration for the CMHS Jail Diversion program, bringing the FY 2003 total up to $5 million. This Jail Diversion program funds treatment and community supports to non-violent criminal offenders with severe mental illnesses. NAMI strongly supports this program as an essential companion to the new federal Mental Health Courts program at the Justice Department and an important potential resource in addressing the growing and very disturbing trend of "criminalization" of mental illness. >Childrens Programs - The Senate bill includes important increases for the portfolio of programs at CMHS that address the needs of children and adolescents with mental disorders. Among these are the Childrens Mental Health program (proposed for a freeze at $96.7 million), Youth Violence Prevention (proposed for a freeze at $95 million) and services for children experiencing PTSD (slated for a $10 million increase, up to $30 million).
  5. PAIMI - The Senate bill proposes to increase funding for the PAIMI (protection and advocacy) program by $3 million, up to $35.5 million in FY 2003, with a directive for P& A agencies to maintain a priority on investigating deaths and injuries resulting from the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in psychiatric hospitals and other institutions.

Senate Bill Adds $3 Million for Mental Health Courts Program at the Justice Department

On July 18, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved separate legislation that includes the FY 2003 budget for the U.S. Department of Justice. This legislation - known as the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill - must be passed by the first day of the new federal fiscal year that begins on October 1. Included in the Senate Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill is $3 million in funding for the federal Mental Health Courts program. If enacted, this $3 million appropriation would be on top of $4 million Congress approved in FY 2002. NAMI advocates are still awaiting an announcement of funding availability from the Justice Department on the Mental Courts program.

NAMI strongly believes that the Mental Health Courts program should be fully funded at the $10 million level authorized by Congress. For more information, see NAMI’s testimony in favor of additional funding for the federal Mental Health Court program.


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