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Sponsors Of Family Opportunity Act Continue To Push For Action As Congressional Adjournment Is Postponed

Update On Labor, HHS And Education Appropriations Bill


For Immediate Release, October 31, 2000
Contact: Chris Marshall
703-524-7600



With the election one week away, Congress continues to put off final adjournment as the White House and Republican leaders have failed to reach agreement on 3 remaining spending bills and a package of tax cuts, Medicare "givebacks" and a minimum wage increase. As is being widely reported in the press, the President is threatening to veto the combined tax cut/Medicare "giveback"/minimum wage bill, as well as the remaining FY 2001 appropriations bills. This dispute over final budget and tax bills may drag on until the eve of the election, or perhaps even longer.

As a result of this partisan stalemate, sponsors of the Family Opportunity Act (FOA) - S 2274/HR 4825 - are continuing their effort to attach the bill to any moving legislative vehicle on its way to the White House. Among the potential vehicles for S 2274/HR 4825 are the combined tax cut/Medicare "giveback"/minimum wage bill (HR 2614) and the FY 2001 Labor-HHS appropriations bill (HR 4577).

ACTION REQUESTED

NAMI advocates are urged to continue their efforts in support of the Family Opportunity Act by contacting their members of Congress to advocate for inclusion of S 2274/HR 4825 in final budget and tax legislation.

  • Urge them to contact House and Senate leaders to insist that FOA be a part of any final budget deal,
  • Remind them that of the remaining bills left to be decided in these final days of this session, only the FOA has broad bipartisan support,
  • Remind them of the importance of the FOA to families with children with severe mental illnesses who are too often forced to spend themselves into poverty or relinquish custody in order to qualify for Medicaid,
  • Educate them about the need to set up new state Medicaid "buy in" programs that families can access for treatment and community supports for their children with severe mental illnesses,
  • Urge them to create a level playing field for children with severe mental illnesses in state Medicaid community-based waiver programs as proposed in the FOA, and
  • Inform them of the need for the "family-to-family" information centers authorized in the FOA.

All members of the House and Senate can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or by going to the policy page of the NAMI web site at www.nami.org/policy.htm and click on "Write to Congress." District and Washington office numbers can be found in your local phone book or through http://www.congress.org/

Finally, NAMI advocates are urged to contact the White House to demand that President Clinton maintain his commitment to this legislation by rejecting any final budget agreement or Medicare provider relief bill that does not include the FOA.

The White House can be reached by calling 202-456-1414 or through the White House website at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/Mail/html/Mail_President.html. Urge President Clinton not to let Congress adjourn without passing the Family Opportunity Act.

NAMI advocates wishing to contact House and Senate leaders directly can do so through the following phone and fax numbers:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) phone:202-225-2976, fax: 202-225-0697

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) phone 202-225-2671; fax 202-225-7452

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) phone 202-224-6253; fax 202-224-2262

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) phone 202-224-2321; fax 202-224-2047

Additional Background on the Family Opportunity Act

As described in previous NAMI E-News, the Family Opportunity Act (S 2274/HR 4825) is intended to restore hope for families of children with severe disabilities, including the parents of children with serious brain disorders. The bill would allow states to set up Medicaid buy-in programs for families with children with severe disabilities so that parents would not be forced to relinquish custody of their children or declare bankruptcy in order to establish eligibility for Medicaid in order to access coverage for treatment services. More information on S 2744 and HR 4825 can be found at:
http://www.nami.org/update/001019.html
http://www.nami.org/update/S2274.html
and http://www.nami.org/update/000713.html

Labor-HHS-Education Spending Measure Still Unresolved

As was noted above, one of the annual spending bills caught in the partisan divide between the White House and congressional leaders is the bill funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education for FY 2001. This bill (HR 4577) includes funding for key mental illness research and treatment programs including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). Despite the fact that we are already a month into fiscal year 2001, both these agencies are still waiting for final word on their budget. However, it is important to note that the issues that divide the President and GOP leaders are unrelated to either NIMH or CMHS - they relate to school construction funds and OSHA regulations. As a result, it is already clear how various NIMH and CMHS programs will fare under the FY 2001 budget (although nothing is certain until Congress and the President reach a final agreement, which may or may not occur before the election).

NIMH - Congress has again included significant increases for all NIH research institutes, including NIMH. For FY 2001, NIMH's budget is expected to top $1 billion for the first time ever - rising to $1.118 billion (a $143.3 million increase).

CMHS - For FY 2001, the Mental Health Block Grant is expected to receive a $64 million increase - up to $420 million. In fact, this final number is $4 million above the President's original request and amounts to a 31% increase over the past two years. The PATH program (services for homeless individuals with mental illness) is expected to receive a $6 million increase (up to $36.9 million). The Childrens Mental Health program is expected to get a $4 million boost in FY 2001 (up to $86.8 million) and the protection and advocacy (PAIMI) program a $1 million increase (up to $25.9 million). Finally, CMHS' discretionary program (known as "Knowledge Development and Application" or KDA) is also expected to receive a boost, up from $136.9 million to $145.7 million. However, it appears that the Administration's request for a new $30 million "targeted capacity expansion" program (that NAMI did not support) has been rejected by Congress.

 


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