Press Releases

Legal Advocacy Project Established to End Barriers to Care for Millions

NAMI Treatment Action Center Seeks To Reverse Policies That Restrict Treatment For Those With Most Severe Brain Disorders

Nov 05 1997

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today announced the establishment of a first-of-a-kind center that will push for timely and effective treatment for the estimated 2.2 million individuals with severe psychiatric disorders who don't get care when they most need it. The NAMI Treatment Advocacy Center will support education, research, legal, and legislative efforts to promote treatment for individuals with the most serious brain disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

In announcing the Center, NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn noted that current policies and practices hamper treatment for people who are most at risk for homelessness, arrest, or suicide. "It's a national disgrace that, in this age of remarkable progress in brain research and treatment, so many individuals are left out in the cold," said Flynn. "If NAMI doesn't stand up for those who are the most ill and most vulnerable, who will?"

The principle activities of the NAMI Treatment Action Center will include the following:

  • educating policy-makers and judges about the true nature of severe mental illnesses, available treatments for those illnesses, and the necessity of court-ordered treatment in some cases;
  • researching factors that affect the ability of persons with severe mental illnesses to make informed decisions about their treatment; . working within states to promote laws that enable individuals with the most severe brain disorders to receive treatment; and
  • promoting innovative approaches to diverting people who have the most severe brain disorders away from the criminal justice system and into appropriate treatment.

The NAMI Treatment Advocacy Center is being established as a supporting organization of NAMI, with its own executive director and board of directors. Initial funding for the Center is being provided by the Stanley Foundation, which has contributed generously to research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A search for an executive director for the Center is currently underway.

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 other anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for non-discriminatory and equitable federal, state, and private-sector policies; research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma surrounding severe mental illness.