Are You Ready for the Surgeon General's Report?

Will your coverage include historical perspective, criticism, or policy options—from the point of view of consumers and their families?

Dec 03 2005

WHAT: Reaction to the nation’s first Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health

WHEN: Monday, December 13, 1999 following release of the report

WHO: NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn; NAMI state presidents, executive directors and others

WHERE: From NAMI’s national office in Arlington, Virginia and in the nation’s top media markets. We can help you find the voices you need to provide balanced coverage.

WHY: The Surgeon General’s report follows the White House Conference on Mental Health of June 7, 1999 and for the first time will establish a "national baseline" on the dimensions of mental illness in America and the crisis in the nation’s mental healthcare system. It is expected to address:

  • The biological basis of mental illness
  • The importance of scientific research
  • The impact of stigma
  • Current gaps in treatment

At the same time, the Surgeon General’s Report is not expected to reveal much that mental health advocates, consumers and families don’t already know from experience. It will not make policy recommendations. Indeed, it will be a waste of taxpayer dollars unless it becomes a foundation for action.

What matters most is deeds, not words. Are you ready to address the real issues that will flow from the report?

  • Which presidential candidates support mental health insurance parity? Which do not?
  • What is the significance of the fact that 28 states that have passed such laws?
  • Unlike the Surgeon General’s report, the federal government’s 1992 report on Homelessness and Severe Mental Illness contained specific recommendations. Eight years later, how many have been implemented?
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) spends only about a third of its budget on research for the most severe mental illnesses. What does that mean for its mission?
  • The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) does not focus on the most severe and persistent mental illnesses. How is its money spent?
  • State Medicaid agencies are allowed to restrict access to the newest, most effective psychiatric medications. What does that mean for treatment?
  • Police and teachers today represent our front-line mental health workers. But are they adequately trained to prevent suicides and unnecessary deaths?
  • Why are some parents whose children suffer from mental disorders forced to give up custody of them in order to get the treatment they need?
  • What is the proposed Omnibus Mental Illness Recovery Act (OMIRA) and what can it offer for the future?
  • How will mental illness issues affect the 2000 elections? Should people with severe mental illnesses be allowed to vote?

You may be surprised at the answers.