NAMI Unveils Monitoring Project to Measure State Mental Health Care Systems and Provide "Dynamic Accountability"

"Presidential Commission is Only the Beginning"

Jun 26 2002

Cincinnati, OH - As the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) began its national convention today, with more than 2,000 members arriving, the NAMI Policy Research Institute (NPRI) unveiled plans for a state monitoring project to compile comprehensive data to create a new baseline by which to monitor the quality and progress of the nation's mental healthcare systems.

Named as project director is Laura Lee Hall, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and former senior advisor to the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Hall once previously served as NAMI's research director and deputy policy director, as well as a senior policy analyst in the U.S. Congress. She was trained as a neuroscientist at the U.S. Navy Medical School and has published numerous articles and reports on mental illness policies.

"We are pleased to have Laura Lee working with NAMI again on a project that will be increasingly vital to measuring not just the status quo-but also the progress in the years ahead," said NAMI national board president Jim McNulty. "You need hard data to be an effective advocate and to provide dynamic accountability in every state and across the entire system nationally."

The project is especially timely with President George W. Bush recently appointing a special New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to recommend "immediate" improvements in the nation's fragmented, budget-starved mental healthcare system.

The Commission chairman, Michael Hogan, director of Ohio's Department of Mental Health, and Charles Curie, head of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will hold a "listening session" at the NAMI convention on June 29. Formal hearings will begin in July.

"The presidential commission is only the beginning," McNulty said. "There is a revolution coming in mental health. As a nation, we have to look beyond treatment to an investment in recovery."

The Stanley Foundation is funding the project with an initial two-year grant. Data will be compiled, analyzed and published in the first year, with the second year devoted to NPRI's coordination of federal and state advocacy to implement recommendations.

In a meeting with NAMI state presidents, Hall outlined five major areas of scrutiny for the project:

  • Overviews of each state system, focusing especially on fiscal investments.
  • Use of evidence-based interventions and services.
  • Outcomes and climate, including levels of homelessness, suicide rates, excess mortality, emergency room use, and measures of cultural stigma in each state.
  • Criminal justice issues, such as police training and procedures and jail diversion programs.
  • Accountability and leadership, including formal advisory roles for consumers and families, state oversight and monitoring, use of unduplicated counts of individuals receiving mental health services, and collaboration with academic research centers.

State leaders suggested additional indicators, including an "intensity measure" for the difficulty individuals encounter from "stagnant bureaucracies" in trying to get help.

"The project will create standards of national comparability," Hall said. "It will be a baseline to be used as part of a dynamic process. Top-ranked states will not be allowed to rest on their laurels. They will need to keep pace with scientific advances and evidence-based practices."