December 2, 2005
Congress returns to Washington on December 6 and will again try to pass spending legislation for health, labor, and education programs. Included in this legislation is FY 2006 funding for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and a Senate proposal to boost mental illness research funding by $48.2 million.
Advocates are strongly encouraged to contact their Senators and House member to urge them to support the higher allocation for medical research included in the Senate version of HR 3010 -- the FY 2006 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill. Remind them of the vital role that mental illness research at NIMH (part of the National Institutes of Health) plays in increasing understanding of illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and severe anxiety disorders.
All members of Congress can be reached in Washington, DC by calling 202-224-3121 (long distance charges apply) or in their local office (through the Blue Pages in your local phone book). Phone numbers for members of Congress can also be found through www.congress.org
The Senate version of FY 2006 budget for NIH (HR 3010) includes $1.46 billion for basic scientific and clinical research at NIMH. This is $48.2 million above the current FY 2005 level and $41.6 million above the amount proposed by the Bush Administration and the House. This follows the roughly 3% increase included in the Senate bill across the entire National Institutes of Health (NIH) that was included at the direction of Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) -- strong supporters of medical research funding. By contrast, the House version of HR 3010 includes $1.418 billion for NIMH, only $6 million above the current level.
On November 18, the House rejected the proposed "Conference Report" on HR 3010 (the Conference Report is a final version of the legislation reflecting an agreement between the House and the Senate). The following day, the Senate voted to send the bill back to the Conference Committee to reach an acceptable compromise. House lawmakers must now be convinced to take part in this Conference Committee.
While a number of factors contributed to the defeat of this bill, certainly one of the main reasons was the bill's failure to fund critical health and education programs adequately. NIH's growth, for example, would be held to about $250 million, the smallest increase in more than three decades.
What's at stake? Several House members have indicated that it would be best to put NIH, public health, and education programs on a full-year continuing resolution (CR), i.e. holding all programs at FY 2005 levels through all of FY 2006. According to their calculations, a full-year CR would save $1.6 billion. Even more would be cut from these programs if a government-wide across-the-board cut were applied, as has been proposed by both the Bush Administration and House leaders.
When the Senate voted to send this bill back to the Conference Committee, it also instructed its conferees to seek increased funding for vital health and education programs, including NIH. In fact, the Senate singled out NIH, calling for restoration of $29.4 billion in funding that was included in the original Senate bill.
The full text of NAMI's statement on the FY 2006 budget for NIMH can be viewed here.