NAMI Establishes Policy Institute to "Drive National Debate on Mental Illness"

Mike Fitzpatrick Named Director

Mar 21 2002

Arlington, VA  - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has established the NAMI Policy Research Institute (NPRI) as part of its campaign to drive national, state, and local debates on reforms and investments in the nation's mental health care system. The action comes at a time when President George W. Bush also is expected to appoint a national commission on treatment and services in the nation's often fragmented mental health care system

"The Institute will bring together scientists, policymakers and advocates to craft solutions and expand support for science-based, recession-proof treatment and recovery systems," said NAMI executive director Richard. C. Birkel, Ph.D. "The greatest challenge we face is convincing both the public and elected officials that investments in research, professional training, treatment and recovery must be sustained from year to year. Promoting recovery from mental illness and substance abuse must be the cornerstone of enlightened public policy."

Named as NPRI director is Michael Fitzpatrick, who currently serves as NAMI's Director of State Policy, providing technical assistance to NAMI state organizations and local affiliates and playing a pivotal role in legislative campaigns throughout the country for health insurance parity, access to medication, children's issues and increased funding. In 2000, he led NAMI's national "I Vote, I Count" voter registration and education campaign.

During the 1990's, Fitzpatrick served in the Maine House of Representatives, including a term as chair of the Health & Human Services Committee, with jurisdiction over Medicaid and other key issues affecting the states' treatment systems.

"Mike Fitzpatrick is a savvy advocate and legislator who is equally at home in the capitol and with the grass roots," Birkel said. "He is knowledgeable, patient, and down to earth. He knows how to unlock rhetoric and political posturing in order to focus on the real needs of people with severe mental illnesses and their families."

During 25 years in the public and private sector, Fitzpatrick has worked with housing, employment and outreach issues. From 1990 to 1996, he served as NAMI Maine's executive director. He has a Masters in Social Work in administration and planning from Boston College.

"NPRI's creation comes at a time of significant stress in America's systems of care for children, adolescents, adults and elders with mental illnesses," Fitzpatrick said. " No family is immune from being hurt by already fragile service systems that are at risk today because of years of neglect and the renewed threat of major budget cuts."

"NPRI will work closely with NAMI's state leaders to develop innovative policy and advocacy strategies. Its mission also includes reaching out to other groups to build consensus and coalitions that focus on the big issues on which the mental health community generally agree, while overcoming divisions on smaller issues that threaten our effectiveness. I look forward to leading the Institute and helping to build a broader, stronger movement for reform."

NPRI will function as a 501(c)3 supporting organization.