| Congress And The President Reach Agreement On Budget And Work Incentives Legislation |
The accord on the budget includes FY 2000 funding for mental illness research, treatment and services programs including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). As with every discretionary program in the federal government, NIMH and CMHS will be subject to a .38 percent across-the-board cut which will be imposed later this year. This across-the-board reduction was the critical concession made by the President as part of this comprehensive agreement.
In exchange for this reduction, Republicans agreed to allow agency directors latitude in determining how the .38 percent reduction will be applied to their individual programs, i.e. some programs will face reductions larger than .38 percent, while others will be held harmless. However, agency heads will not be allowed to cut any single program more than 15%. Thus, the directors of NIMH and CMHS (and their parent agencies NIH and SAMHSA) will be deciding in the coming weeks how to enact these cuts. The House passed the $385 billion FY 2000 "Omnibus Appropriations Act" (HR 3194) last night by a vote of 296-135. The Senate is expected to pass the bill tomorrow.
The final agreement includes $978.360 million dollars for basic scientific and clinical research at NIMH. This is $123.150 million above the FY 1999 level ($855.210 million) and reflects a 14 percent increase in funding. This matches the most recent proposed increase by the House, and is $47.924 million above the original House suggested increase ($930.436 million). This figure is $8.866 million above the Senate level ($969.494 million) and $102.367 million above the President's original FY 2000 request for NIMH ($875.993 million).
The final conference agreement nearly meets the $70 million increase for the Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG) that was included in the President's FY 2000 Budget, boosting the program to $356 million. The agreement provides a $67.277 million increase in funding over the FY 1999 level ($288.723 million) and reflects a substantial 23 percent increase. The MHBG is a formula grant program to the state mental health agencies designed to fund community-based services for adults and children with severe mental illnesses. The agreed upon figure is $56 million more than the House bill approved ($300 million) and $46 million more that the Senate ($310 million). Congress did not accept language advocating by NAMI to target the increase in Block Grant funds to specific populations such as homeless adults with severe mental illnesses and specific services such as replication of PACT programs. However, NAMI affiliates will still be able to push state mental health agency directors for this targeting of Block Grant funds.
The final budget agreement also includes modest increases for other CMHS Programs. The PATH program (services for homeless mentally ill adults) is funded at $31 million (up $5 million from its FY 1999 $26 million level). The Childrens Mental Health program is funded at $83 million (up $5 million from the FY 1999 level). The PAIMI (protection and advocacy) program is funded at $25 million, up $2 million (with the increase specifically linked to investigating deaths and injuries related to inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion in psychiatric hospitals). The Knowledge Development and Application (KDA) budget is increased by $42.343 million up to $138.982 million.
WORK INCENTIVES BILL PASSES
In addition to completing action on the FY 2000 budget, Congress and the President also reached agreement on the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act. As E-News readers know, NAMI has been pushing for this legislation for more than 3 years. Both the White House and congressional leaders hailed the agreement as the first step toward ensuring that people on SSI and SSDI get the chance to go to work without losing their health care coverage. The bill, HR 1180, passed the House last night 418-2 and is expected to pass the Senate later today. President Clinton has pledged to sign the bill into law. A more detailed analysis of the impact of this bill on SSI and SSDI beneficiaries with severe mental illnesses will sent out to E-News subscribers next week. A comprehensive summary of the bill can be viewed at: http://hillsource.house.gov/LegislativeDigest/Digest/DigestMain/Wk34pt2.htm
The Nami policy staff is deeply grateful for the advocates that called and wrote their members of Congress and the White House that made this victory possible. The important reforms of Social Security disability policy that will improve the lives of people with serious brain disorders would not have occurred without this advocacy.
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