Community Leaders Identify Mental Health System As One of Most Overburdened Community Resources; Con | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Posted on November 10, 2003

Washinton, DC - One-third of community leaders nationwide identified mental health treatment system and services as one of the most overburdened community resources, according to a Peter D. Hart Research survey released today by the Campaign for the Mind of America.

The Campaign for the Mind of America, chaired by NAMI – The Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness, is a multi-year national and state initiative to increase access to mental health treatment services by changing public policies and priorities at the federal and state levels.

"Half a century of inadequate mental health policyhas failed the 45 million Americans with mental disorders and now compels community leaders to act," said NAMI executive director Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D.

Among the other findings of the survey:

  • Consequences of Inadequate Mental Health Treatment System: The increased burden on emergency medical and education systems were seen as the major consequences of inadequate treatment and services for people with mental disorders by 60 percent of respondents;
  • Reason to Expand Access to Treatment: Nearly 80 percent of respondents cited as a very important reason to expand access to treatment the fact that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young Americans;
  • Consensus on What to Do: Early detection and treatment of mental disorders was identified by 90 percent of respondents as important for addressing mental illness in their communities.

The survey sample included interviews with 501 opinion leaders from across the U.S., including hospital administrators, law enforcement officials, education officials, and business leaders. The margin of error for total opinion leaders is +-4.38.

National And State Networks Launched

U.S. government statistics estimate that untreated mental illness costs the nation more than $70 billion annually to lost productivity. When the diverted resources of those in law enforcement, education, and health care that are acting as the de facto front line of mental health treatment are added, the cost rises to more than $100 billion per year

"In every community, this public health crisis is having devastating effects on education, law enforcement, health care and business," said Birkel. "Community leaders know the impact on their field and now understand the cumulative effects. That is why police officers, teachers, doctors, and other citizens on the front lines of the mental health system crisis are joining together in this campaign. We stand together to try to solve this problem in a new way."

Inaugural partners announced today were: American College of Emergency Physicians; Association of Academic Health Centers; Child Welfare League of America; National Association of City and County Health Officials; National Medical Association; National Association of Counties; National Association of Police Organizations; National Association of Social Workers; and the Society for Adolescent Medicine.

The Campaign for the Mind of America also announced its intention to take the Campaign to six key states – Iowa, Maine, West Virginia, Florida, Kentucky and Massachusetts. "We are starting with these states, but we issue a challenge to all states to begin to make the changes necessary to ensure that future generations have the access they need to live productive lives," said Birkel.

In order to advocate for effective system change, the Campaign for the Mind of America developed Campaign policy objectives. Individual states may adapt these goals in light of the unique circumstances and needs of the state.

The Campaign policy objectives are:

  1. Institute partnerships between mental health professionals and child-serving professionals to identify and treat school age children with mental disorders.
  2. Commit to preserve three essential components of mental health services: early detection and treatment, crisis intervention and acute care, and comprehensive community-based support.
  3. Develop programs that treat children and adolescents at home in their communities and prevent institutionalization.
  4. Train police officers in crisis intervention and provide mental health backup in response to psychiatric emergencies.
  5. Create a state plan to provide appropriate housing supports for people with mental disorders.
  6. Create a blue ribbon panel led by the governor to recommend how business and government can work together to promote the employment of people with mental disorders.
  7. Issue an annual report on state expenditures and services in support of those with mental disorders with outcomes evaluated.


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