December 3, 1999
President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Clinton:
On behalf of the 208,000 members and 1,200 affiliates of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) I would like to offer our deep appreciation for your successful efforts to increase funding for the Mental Health Block Grant and PATH programs in the final FY 2000 budget agreement. As the nation’s largest organization representing people with severe mental illnesses and their families, we applaud your Administration’s leadership in securing additional resources for state and local mental illness treatment and services programs targeted to adults and children with serious brain disorders.
While many senior officials within your Administration played key roles in securing these funds in the final budget agreement, NAMI would like to especially call attention to the work of your Special Advisor on Mental Health Tipper Gore and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew. Their efforts in developing your original FY 2000 budget proposal and especially the final stages of negotiations on the Omnibus Appropriations bill proved critical. NAMI’s consumer and family membership is deeply grateful for their leadership in drawing attention to the emerging public health crisis associated with gaps in access to treatment services for individuals with severe mental illnesses.
Throughout the past year, NAMI strongly supported your initiative to increase the Mental Health Block Grant by $70 million. NAMI believes that this increase is justified by the major gaps in system capacity that have been experienced in recent years in public mental health programs across the country. NAMI strongly supports this increase and urged Congress to go further in order to target increased funds to evidence-based programs such as Assertive Community Treatment that have a proven record of success in serving the most seriously ill and vulnerable consumers in the community.
NAMI is especially pleased that the final agreement reached between your Administration and Congress on the FY 2000 Omnibus Appropriations bill includes both a $67 million increase for the Mental Health Block Grant (nearly meeting your request) and a $5 million increase for the PATH program serving homeless adults with severe mental illnesses. Clearly, these increases are long overdue. The 1990s have witnessed six years of level funding of the Block grant and an overall downward trend in public mental health spending at the state level. NAMI believes that these federal initiatives are a major step forward for our nation’s public mental illness treatment system.
Thank you for your continued leadership on behalf of people with severe mental illnesses and their families.
Laurie M. Flynn