Mary Rappaport 703/312-7886
Valerie Rheinstein 703/516-7963
|For Immediate Release
4 Feb 98
ARLINGTON, VA - NAMI Executive Director Laurie M. Flynn today urged Congress to increase overall funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by 15 percent in FY'99.
"Given the enormous potential for turning around the lives of millions Americans, NAMI strongly believes that Congress should work to more effectively focus the funding sources for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on the most severe and disabling mental illnesses," said Flynn in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. "The last eight years of pioneering research have brought forth the first real hope for people with brain disorders to reclaim full and productive lives. We commend President Clinton for making biomedical research a top national priority and support his recommendation of a $1.15 billion increase in this critical area of research.
"Research has proven that brain disorders are treatable," said Flynn. "Brain research, in particular, offers the most tremendous potential for advances in basic science and clinical treatment."
The efficacy rate for treating schizophrenia is 60 percent, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) is 80 percent and major depression is 65 percent. Comparatively, the treatment success rate for heart disease is roughly 50 percent.
"The intensity of research on serious brain disorders has allowed us to leap forward from simple discovery to major recovery," said Flynn. "The introduction of atypical antipsychotic drugs as first-line medications, for example, represents an unrivaled turning point for the more than five million Americans suffering from the most debilitating brain disorders. This new generation of drug therapies allows people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, to leave mental hospitals and in many cases return to school, hold a job and live independently - all without the devastating physical side effects of older medications."
According to a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), diseases such as major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder currently comprise approximately 40 percent of the total loss of health life due to noncommunicable disease. "While major depression ranked as the fourth highest costly disease in 1990, the study projected it will become the second highest ranking disease by 2020, outranking traffic accidents, cancer and infectious diseases," said Flynn. "Additionally, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all expected to climb into the top 25 diseases, making continued research on serious brain disorders a top priority. Given this data, it becomes increasingly important that we, as a nation, have precise, ongoing research into the causes and treatments of serious brain disorders.
"The strongest weapon against stigma toward mental illness is science," said Flynn. "It's time we break through society's misunderstanding and fear of severe mental illness as we close the Decade of the Brain and enter the new millennium.
"We must finally acknowledge that severe mental illnesses are biomedical illnesses of the brain and not the result of bad parenting or bad behavior. NAMI looks forward to its continued work with Congress to ensure that all Americans, no matter their physical illness, are treated equally and afforded the same opportunities in life."
With more than 168,000 members, NAMI is the nation's leading grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.