Letter from NAMI President Jacqueline Shannon to President George W. Bush Commending the "New Freedom Initiative
February 6, 2001
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
On behalf of the 220,000 members and 1,200 affiliates of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), I would like to offer our deep appreciation for your efforts in assisting people with disabilities, including children and adults with severe mental illnesses, to achieve greater independence and community integration. The policy initiatives contained in your "New Freedom Initiative" will assist in improving educational, employment, housing and community support opportunities for people with severe mental illnesses who want to live fulfilling independent lives in their communities.
As the nation's largest organization representing people with severe mental illnesses and their families, NAMI strongly supports your proposal for a National Commission on Mental Illness Treatment Services. This commission which will study and make recommendations for mental illness treatment services, will also be charged with improving the coordination of federal programs that serve individuals with mental illness. This has the potential to make real differences in the lives of families and consumers receiving services and treatment. NAMI endorses the goal of greater federal agency cooperation to address barriers to treatment and services. At the same time, NAMI also believes that there are tremendous gaps existing in treatment services at the state and local level where the bulk of funding for public mental illness treatment resides.
NAMI therefore urges this Commission be modeled after a similar proposal put forward last year by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). This proposal, contained in the Mental Health Early Intervention, Treatment and Prevention Act (S 2639), would have authorized a Commission to examine diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and hospitalization of individuals with mental illness and make recommendations on model state legislation based on their findings. The scope of the Commission envisioned in S 2639 also included a review of the 1999 Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health and an examination of the interaction between mental illness and criminal justice. Further, the Commission was to be charged with making recommendations for model state legislation on the effectiveness and results of state laws governing outpatient and inpatient involuntary treatment, as well as a study on the use of psychiatric advance directives.
The Commission proposed by Senators Domenici and Kennedy also required representation from specific federal agencies (NIMH, CMHS), state and local officials (state mental health commissioners, judges, prosecutors, etc.), and stakeholders (consumers, family members, professionals, etc.). While several provisions from S 2639 were enacted in 2000 as part of SAMHSA reauthorization legislation (P.L. 106-310), this Commission was not.
As the nations largest family and consumer organization representing people with serious and persistent mental illness, NAMI would welcome the opportunity to submit for consideration the name of one of our leaders to serve in the workings of this Commission.
Mr. President, you have a unique opportunity to follow through on the bipartisan groundwork established in Congress last year by modeling your Administration's Commission on the Domenici-Kennedy proposal. NAMI looks forward to working with you and your Administration in the future to create better systems of care for the millions of persons who suffer from a severe and persistent mental illness. Again, thank you for your efforts and leadership in executing the "New Freedom Initiative" on behalf of people with severe mental illnesses and their families.