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States in Crisis:
The Grassroots Response

Massachusetts

     
      

NAMI-Mass Rallies Statehouse
(April 2002)

On October 2, 2001, NAMI-Mass drew some 500 marchers along with Mayor Menino, Moe Armstrong and roughly thirty legislators in our traditional October rally. This rally laid the ground for what came in the month to come. On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Legislator finalized the long overdue state budget that called for drastic cuts to essential mental health services. The "Thanksgiving Budget Massacre" would most certainly have had dire consequence for the most vulnerable in our Commonwealth.

With only 3 days of planning time, on November 29, 2001, The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Mental Health Association, and Mental Health and Substance Corporations of Massachusetts organized the largest mental health rally ever held. The rally drew over 1,000 protesters, who chanted at passersbys and waved signs demanding the legislature to restore millions of dollars to mental health budget. In addition to the outpouring of mental health consumers and advocates, the local media also turned out in droves. Nearly every local channel covered the rally, including WBZ-TV, WHDH-TV New England Cable News, the Boston Globe, the Herald, the Associated Press, and The Lowell Sun.

After the rally NAMI and other advocacy groups launched a week of intensive pressure. Across the state local NAMI affiliates and members flooded their local papers and legislators with letters and calls demanding justice. And your voice was heard. The Governor submitted a supplemental budget to restore $16.6 million dollars for desperately need mental health services, which the legislator promptly passed. The Legislature's speedy approval of the supplemental budget is due to our unprecedented ability to unite in the face of crisis with more than 1,000 people on the State House.

NAMI extends its heart-felt appreciation to the provider community, the clubhouses, the consumers, the parents, and the many concerned citizens who have chosen to make mental health their cause. Without your support and partnership, none of this would have been possible. We must build on this momentum and continue to unite in advocacy as the next fiscal year begins to unfold.

"The intense energy and efforts displayed by the mental health community saved the Department from an unmanageable financial situation," said Commissioner Sudders. "It was inspiring to see the outpouring of advocates, consumers, providers and many others as they spoke eloquently with one voice at the State House."

Of the $16.6 million supplemental budget, $1.12 million will be used to restore child and adolescent mental health services. This prevents the discharge of 58 children and adolescents to their communities without therapeutic supports. $5.14 million will be used to restore adult community mental health services. This amount allows the placement of 170 inpatients from state hospitals to the community per pre-litigation demands under the Supreme Court Olmstead decision. This also allows the Department to develop two Program for Assertive Community Treatment Teams (PACT). $2 million will be used to restore to homeless mentally ill services. $7.061 million will be used to partially restored adult inpatient facilities and prevents the closing of nine hospital wards, the discharge of 170 inpatients without residential and clinical supports, and the layoff of 470 DMH hospital employees.


For more information contact
Toby Fisher, executive director, NAMI-Mass. at (781) 938-4048


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