The Senate is scheduled this week to take up spending legislation covering FY 2004 funding for federal agencies and programs that include important federal investments for mental illness research and services. On July 10, the House completed action on the same bill, the FY 2004 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (HR 2660/S 1356). Included in this legislation are the proposed 2004 budgets for both the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Because of tight budget constraints and a growing federal budget deficit, neither the House nor the Senate version of the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill includes sufficient increases for needed investments in research and services on severe mental illness. For example, the House bill limits the increase for overall medical research at the National Institutes of Health (including NIMH) to only 2.5% (the same amount requested by President Bush). While the Senate bill increases NIH by 3.7% (or $1 billion), both of these increases are far below the 10% to 12% increases enacted in recent years as Congress moved to double the federal investment in medical research.
The situation for services funded by SAMHSA's programs (including the Center for Mental Health Services, CMHS) is even worse, with actual cuts being imposed on several programs including the Mental Health Block Grant. Details on the competing versions of the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (HR 2660/S 1356) is available at: http//:www.nami.org/policy/content
NAMI's testimony to Congress on the FY 2004 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill can be viewed at: http://www.nami.org/Template.testimony
Advocates are urged to contact their Senators to urge them to support larger increases for medical research funding at NIH and NIMH for FY 2004. NAMI is grateful to Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) for including increases above President Bush's request as part of S 1356. However, these increases are not nearly enough to sustain the new research that has been initiated at NIMH in recent years – particularly with respect to new clinical research on bipolar disorder and genetic research on schizophrenia. Therefore, NAMI urges support for an amendment being offered by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to add an additional $1.3 billion to the NIH budget in FY 2004, which would include increases to the NIMH budget as well. All Senators can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org.