July 5, 2011
CHICAGO -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) opens its national convention in Chicago this week at a time when Congressional negotiations over the federal debt limit threaten Medicaid funding for mental health care.
"Lives are at risk," said NAMI Executive Director Mike Fitzpatrick. "The battle in Congress is the shadow that hangs over our members as they arrive in Chicago looking for hope."
The full NAMI convention program runs July 6-9.
The threat to Medicaid comes after many states have already deeply cut mental health budgets.A NAMI report released earlier this year ranked Illinois seventh in cutting mental healthó15.1 percent over three years. By comparison, Indiana cut 3.0 percent. Wisconsin increased 1.2 percent.
NAMI represents individuals and families affected by serious mental illness. In many cases, individuals depend on Medicaid, state mental health services and other help for treatment and recovery.
"We know the world economy hangs in the balance as Congress negotiates, but so do the lives of America's most vulnerable citizens," Fitzpatrick said. Medicaid pays for over 50 percent of all publicly funded treatment for serious mental illnessócovering 2.5 million people. It also covers the mental health needs of five million people with other illnesses such as cancer.
A key proposal Congress is debatingówhich the U.S. House of Representatives has already passedówould "cap" the amount of federal funding each state receives to cover health care, regardless of state need. The proposal to "block grant" Medicaid might save the federal government money in the short term, but shifts risks and costs to states and local communities already devastated by budget cuts.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, support and research.
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