NAMI Outlines HHS Budget Concerns; National Commission on Treatment of Mental Illness Also Awaited

Feb 26 2002

Arlington, VA - In a letter to Secretary Tommy Thompson of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) this week, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) praised broad aspects of President George W. Bush's budget for FY2003, but outlined specific concerns that still need to be addressed during the Congressional budget and appropriations process.

NAMI applauded Bush's commitment in joining the five-year Congressional effort to double federal investment in biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by FY2003. They also praised a $7 million increase for Projects to Assist Transition From Homelessness (PATH) in the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) for homeless individuals with severe mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse problems. The increase will result in services for an additional 31,000 persons.

NAMI reaffirmed support for the President's New Freedom Initiative (NFI) to promote independence and community integration for people with disabilities. "We look forward to working with the President's upcoming commission on mental illness services," NAMI Executive Director Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D. noted.

But NAMI also raised several specific concerns:

  • The budget increase for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) "lags far behind" the nearly 14 percent increase proposed for other NIH institutes and lacks "equitable proportion to the scientific opportunities that exist and the terrible burdens of cost and pain" that mental illnesses impose.
  • Other than the PATH program, CMHS programs are slated for a freeze or reductions, which will increase cuts in services in many states, particularly through the $433 million Mental Health Block Grants.
  • As of this date, funds will be cut for CMHS Projects of Regional and National Significance (PRNS), including termination of national technical assistance centers, which promote peer support, consumer empowerment programs, and evidence-based practices such as the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT).
  • Community action grants are at risk of being terminated. Also supporting knowledge dissemination and replication of evidence-based practices, communities have used these grants to build good programs for integrated treatment, jail diversion, police training, and peer support.

"It's one thing to wait for a commission to help chart a course for the future," said Andrew Sperling, NAMI's Director of Federal Affairs. "But it's another to cut back on services that are part of the foundation people with mental illnesses already depend on. We hope the Secretary and Congress will recognize this inequity and inconsistency and set them right."