May 21, 2002
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the 220,000 members and 1,200 affiliates of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), I am writing to thank you for your recent declaration of support for federal mental illness parity legislation. As the nation's largest organization representing people with severe mental illnesses and their families, NAMI is deeply grateful for your leadership in calling for an end to insurance discrimination.
NAMI is very hopeful that your leadership on this issue will prove critical in finally bringing full federal parity legislation to passage and enactment. As you know, mental illness insurance parity has broad support in Congress - 66 current Senate cosponsors and 240 House members having expressed support on the record. Your support will certainly prove decisive in convincing all House members and senators that the time for delay has passed and that America needs parity as a basic protection to ensure that children and adults with mental illness get access to equitable coverage for the treatment they need. In NAMI's view, medical research has demonstrated that mental illnesses are real, that treatment works and that there is no medical or scientific justification for health plans imposing limits or conditions on coverage that do no apply to all illnesses.
NAMI looks forward to working with you to ensure that Congress sends you a parity bill to sign in 2002. America has waited too long for this basic protection to ensure that coverage of mental illness treatment is the same as for all other illnesses. We are grateful for your leadership on this important issue.
NAMI would also like to congratulate you on appointment of your Administration's New Freedom Initiative Commission on Mental Health Services. NAMI shares your view that a serious examination of the gaps in mental illness treatment services in the public sector is long overdue. NAMI members across the country have grown increasingly frustrated with the slow pace by which state and local public mental health agencies have moved toward modernizing their programs to adopt evidence-based approaches that promote recovery for consumers living with severe mental illness.
We are looking forward to working with this Commission to address the gaps in services that have resulted in the disturbing trend of "criminalization" of mental illness and the disproportionate representation of individuals with mental illness in the chronically homeless population. NAMI is encouraged that you have tasked this Commission to work quickly to develop recommendations on how the federal government can help states improve and more effectively target resources on individuals with severe mental illnesses that currently lack access to treatment and community-based supports. NAMI's consumer and family membership stands ready and willing to assist this Commission in its efforts to reform and modernize our nation's public mental health system.
Thank you again for your leadership on these important priorities for individuals with severe mental illnesses and their families.