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Offset State Mental Health Crisis and End Disability Backlog

Author: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Published: 2010-05-17

Synopsis and Key Points:

Greater Research is Needed for Mental Illness Along with Federal Action to Offset State Mental Health Crisis and End Disability Backlog.

Main Digest

NAMI Tells Congress: Greater Research is Needed for Mental Illness; Along with Federal Action to Offset State Mental Health Crisis and End Disability Backlog.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is calling on Congress for greater scientific research, mental health grants to offset massive state budget cuts and an end to a backlog in the processing of Social Security disability claims.

NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick outlined the needs of adults and children living with serious mental illness during "public witness day" before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-and Education Appropriations, noting that the direct and indirect costs of untreated mental illness exceed $80 million annually.

In a prepared statement, Fitzpatrick noted that lack of treatment also results in "spending money in all the wrong places" such as emergency rooms, schools, homeless shelters and the criminal justice system.

One in four Americans experiences mental health problems in any given year. One in 17 lives with the most severe conditions such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14.

Research - NAMI called for a $36 billion overall funding level for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), representing a 12 percent increase, with a corresponding 12 percent increase to $1.7 billion for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

NAMI specified two critical investments: the RAISE (Recovery after an Initial Schizophrenia Episode) study and STARRS (Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members) being conducted jointly with the Department of Defense.

State Crisis Relief - NAMI called for increases in funds for services provided through the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services (SAMHSA), including a $100 million increase in federal Mental Health Block Grants to states, which have been frozen since Fiscal Year 2000.

"A total of nearly $1.8 billion has been cut from state mental health agency budgets," Fitzpatrick warned.

"In a number of states the cuts exceed 20 percent. Rhode Island has seen a 34 percent cut over two years and the boarding of children with serious emotional disturbances in emergency rooms has increased by 65 percent."

Disability Claims - NAMI praised the Subcommittee's work to eliminate an ongoing backlog of Social Security disability claims and appeals.

Hurt by the backlog, Fitzpatrick warned, are individuals with disabilities whose lives are unraveling while waiting for decisions.

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