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Congress Completes Action on Budgets for Housing, Veterans' and Criminal Justice Programs

November 21, 2005

Just prior to beginning a two-week Thanksgiving holiday recess, the House and Senate on November 18 passed legislation containing the 2006 budgets for housing, veterans', and criminal justice programs.  These bills restore deep cuts that had been proposed for housing assistance to low-income people with mental illness and boost funding for treatment and services for veterans' with mental illness.  In addition, Congress allocated $5 million for a new program directed toward individuals with mental illness in the criminal justice system.  All of these cleared bills now move on to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign them into law. 

Across-the-Board Reduction Expected

As part of an overall drive to demonstrate fiscal restraint, congressional leaders are likely to impose a 1% across-the-board cut to all discretionary programs for FY 2006.  This reduction is expected to be included in the funding bill for the Defense Department which will move forward the week of December 5.  Congressional leaders have made clear that veterans' medical care will be exempted from this expected 1% reduction.

Details on the FY 2006 funding levels for housing programs can be found on the NAMI Web site.

Details on the FY 2006 funding levels for veterans' programs can be found at on the NAMI Web site.

Funding for Mental Illness Research and Services Programs Remains Unresolved

A separate funding bill containing FY 2006 funding for mental illness research and services was temporarily derailed last week when the House voted 209-224 to reject the legislation.  It is expected that congressional leaders will amend the bill to address objections and attempt to reintroduce it the week of December 5.  The bill, known as the FY 2006 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill (HR 3010) holds mental illness research (specifically, the $1.418 billion budget for the NIMH) close to a funding freeze.  Likewise, most mental illness services programs at the federal Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) would be held at current levels, with the exception of the suicide prevention activities that are proposed for a $10.5 million increase, up to $27 billion. 

Congress Allocates Funding for Criminal Justice Programs

In a separate bill, funding the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Congress allocated $5 million in funding for new programs authorized under the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (P.L. 108-414).   Although this is far less than the $50 million authorized in the Act, it is nevertheless a very positive development at a time when it is very difficult for new programs to achieve funding.  The appropriation for this important new program reflects bipartisan consensus on the value and importance of jail diversion, correctional mental health treatment and community reentry services.  NAMI is especially grateful to Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Representatives Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) for their role in securing this appropriation.  The new program will be administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice.  The criteria and schedule for applying for grants has not yet been determined.  NAMI will be actively engaged in the process of developing the first Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the program.

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