NAMI Publishes Tools for Advocates: Legal Protections in Managed Care and Preserving Access to Effective Medications to Treat Mental Illness

Mar 08 2001

Arlington, VA - While Congress still debates a Patient's Bill of Rights, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) this week released two important tools for advocates seeking to protect the rights of consumers with mental illnesses in managed care systems, and to preserve access to effective medications in public and private health plan formularies.

"Legal Protections and Advocacy Strategies for People with Severe Mental Illnesses in Managed Care Systems", published by NAMI's Legal Center, provides an overview of legal issues in both the public and private sectors-although much of the focus is on Medicaid, on which many people with severe mental illnesses depend. The manual is a blueprint for challenging decisions and practices in often-complicated systems.

"The Patient's Bill of Rights may never see the light of day, but people with severe mental illness continue to suffer cruel inequities," said NAMI board president Jacqueline Shannon. "Advocates can use the guide to fight for greater protections for people with severe mental illnesses and to help shape managed care systems in positive ways."

The second NAMI publication, Access to Effective Medications to Treat Serious Mental Illnesses, focuses on a specific area of controversy within the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicaid and private managed care plans: restrictive formularies which prevent access to the most effective, newest generation of medications. Designed as a "tool-kit" for advocates, the publication binder includes background materials, fact sheets, case studies, and model news releases that can be used in grassroots campaigns.

"Access to effective medications is a battle being fought today in a growing number of states," Shannon said "In many cases, efforts to restrict medications are tied to state Medicaid budgets. Consumer advocates urgently need these tools."

The legal manual was developed with financial support from the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) of the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the United States Department of Health & Human Services.

The tool kit was developed as part of the Targeted Technical Assistance project of the National Association of State Mental Health Planning Directors (NASHPD) and the Division of State and Community Systems Development (Mental Health Block Grants) within SAMSHA/CMHS.