NAMI’s Advocacy Agenda: No One Can Do It Alone
It’s February and if you are like me, you begin to wonder if winter will ever end. But deep down, we know that spring will come and we have hope.
I think of this as an analogy for our mental health system. When I travel to state conferences—I just returned from NAMI Arizona’s convention—and listen to our members and callers to the HelpLine, I begin to wonder if the mental health crisis will ever end. One of the keynote speakers in Arizona broke my heart with a story of her college-age son’s death by suicide after a struggle with mental illness.
Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a time when people will not desperately seek care, be subject to abuse and stigma, and left to struggle and even die due to their mental illnesses.
At the same time, I talk to members in recovery and see people with mental illness thriving, like one of our young affiliate leaders in northern Arizona, and I have hope. I believe that together we can make a difference and changes in public policy can improve access to needed care and treatment.
Leadership from the federal government is essential in addressing the overwhelming needs and making needed change. So I want to share with you a brief list of NAMI’s strategic priorities at the federal level. These items represent an ambitious agenda that we’ll be pursuing as 2015 continues to unfold.
- Mental health reform. It’s time for Congress to pass comprehensive mental health care reform. We particularly need changes in Medicaid, suicide prevention, support for early-identification of mental health problems, research on first episode psychosis and changes in the criminal justice system.
- First-episode psychosis. Expanded access to treatment of first-episode psychosis is one of NAMI’s top priorities. We need to increase Medicaid funding for FEP programs and services and the federal government needs to provide technical assistance to states in implementing them so they are widely available.
- Criminal justice reform. Criminal justice is also at the top of the list. NAMI is working toward nationwide expansion of police crisis intervention teams (CIT) as well as jail diversion programs, better mental health care in prisons and sensible e-entry programs to provide needed treatment and support in communities. We are also working to ensure treatment courts are available to our veterans so they receive care, not punishment for mental health conditions.
- Increased federal funding. Resources are needed in so many areas. NAMI supports increased federal funding of medical research by the National Institute of Mental Health, block grant dollars for mental health services and supportive housing and programs for homeless persons.
- Protect Medicaid funding. NAMI is also vigilant in seeking to protect federal funding of Medicaid. That includes opposition to state spending “caps” or block grants to states that inevitably serve to limit mental health care.
- Protect Medicare Part D. One size does not fit all and NAMI continues to remain vigilant in protecting access to psychiatric medications under the Medicare Part D program—around which a major victory was won last year.
- Protect SSDI. Income support is critical. NAMI will be resolute in protecting the Social Security Disability Insurance program and combatting stereotypes and discrimination directed against people with mental illnesses who are receiving benefits.
- Regulate restraint and seclusion. NAMI also is calling for passage of the Keeping All Students Safe Act to restrict the use of restraints and seclusion in schools.
Some of these issues may sound abstract or complex, but they are issues that greatly affect the lives of real people. No one person can take them on alone. That’s one of the reasons why NAMI is here and why we are working to build a broader movement for the future.
If you are interested in helping to advance this agenda, please sign up to receive our Legislative Alerts and Advocacy Updates. Your voice makes a difference and I am very grateful to each and every one of you who has ever sent a letter, drafted an email, or made a call or visit to an elected official at any level of government for NAMI. Thank you so much!
As always, I’m interested in hearing your own thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t reply to every message, but please be assured that I read every one. Thank you for your support as we look forward to spring. Together we can bring help and hope.