Advocacy: A Respected Force
NAMI is recognized as the preeminent voice on Capitol Hill and in state houses across the country for the millions of Americans living with serious mental illness. NAMI advocates have fought for policy changes that raise the bar on mental illness care and promote treatment and research on par with other illnesses. NAMI's advocacy provides a unique voice for people who live with mental illness and their families in state and federal public and private-sector policies that facilitate research, end discrimination, reduce barriers to successful life in the community and promote timely, comprehensive and effective mental health services and supports. NAMI National and NAMI grassroots leaders work steadily to influence critical national policy debates as they unfold.
Grading the States 2009. On March 11, 2009, NAMI released its second report card of the mental health system, Grading the States 2009: A Report on America's Health Care System for Adults with Serious Mental Illness and engaged the media to bring attention to America's health care crisis. Following suite, over 40 NAMI state organizations worked with local media to use the report as a platform to promote NAMI's advocacy agenda resulting in over 90 million media impressions. The report gives the nation a D grade and contains five policy recommendations for putting the nation's public mental health system on a path to maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
- Increase public funding for mental health care services.
- Improve data collection, outcomes, measurement, and accountability.
- Integrate mental and physical health care.
- Promote recovery and respect.
- Increase services for people with serious mental illness who are most at risk.
The NAMI Child & Adolescent Action Center (CAAC) works to improve the lives of children and adolescents living with mental illnesses and their families through advocacy, support and education. CAAC offers resources and technical assistance to NAMI affiliates at the state and local levels. CAAC focuses on mental health system reform that promises to improve the lives of children and adolescents with mental illnesses and their families. CAAC's goal is to build and support grassroots advocacy to ensure an expanded systems reform agenda at the local, state and national levels. The work of CAAC is ongoing in many areas, including:
- Ending the practice of forcing families to relinquish custody of their child to secure mental health services;
- Focusing the policy debate on ensuring the early identification of mental illnesses and early intervention;
- Ensuring improved treatment outcomes for children and adolescents;
- Focusing attention on the crisis of youth with mental illnesses in the juvenile justice system and the failure of schools to properly address the academic and functional needs of students with mental illnesses;
- Partnering with organizations focused on children and adolescents;
- Strengthening support for the work of NAMI state and affiliate leaders on child and adolescent issues;
- Helping to educate all child-serving professionals – especially school professionals – about the early warning signs of mental illnesses in children and adolescents; and
- Supporting parents and caregivers of children with mental illnesses by lobbying federal and state legislators and by providing information, referrals and resources to families and youth.
NAMI's CIT Resource Center serves to supply mental health care, law enforcement, advocacy workers and people who live with mental illness with the latest information about Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement professionals. The NAMI CIT Technical Resource Center serves as a repository of information about CIT programs nationwide. The Center facilitates ongoing communications between CIT programs and engages in national networking to establish standards and promote the expansion of CIT. The Center produces an e-newsletter, CIT in Action, and maintains an online networking community, which provides announcements and urgent news on jail diversion, CIT, and forensic issues.
Medicare Part D Education. Upon enactment of the Medicare Part D drug benefit in 2003, NAMI began a major undertaking to educate Medicare beneficiaries living with serious mental illness and their families about the new program. This effort included printed educational materials and Web-based tools to assist beneficiaries in selecting among competing Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. These efforts were coordinated with larger campaigns undertaken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and state-level SHIPS that were engaged in direct counseling with beneficiaries. In addition, NAMI staff made presentations to NAMI state and local affiliates in nearly 40 states from 2004 - 2006. In 2006 when the benefit went into effect, NAMI staff managed a Web-based consumer helpline to assist beneficiaries with serious mental illness with the transition to the program. NAMI's efforts to educate people with mental illness and their families regarding the real-life implications of public policy are ongoing.
The NAMI Multicultural Action Center. NAMI recognizes that people of color face life-threatening disparities in access to high quality mental health care. Many studies and policy reports point to the great disparities of minority mental health in this country and the resulting toll on our society. NAMI recognizes that diversity goes beyond race and ethnicity, and the NAMI Multicultural Action Center (MAC) strives to represent and advocate for America's broad cultural and life groups that are outside the mainstream.
This center works to focus attention on system reform to ensure access to culturally competent services and treatment for all Americans and particularly to help and support families of diverse communities who are dealing with mental illness. MAC's goals include:
- Advancing NAMI's policy agenda and addressing issues which disproportionately affect diverse communities;
- Supporting NAMI grassroots advocacy and outreach efforts;
- Building diverse leadership at all levels of the organization;
- Developing and promoting culturally competent support programs and practices;
- Developing strong partnerships with other similar organizations; and
- Decreasing stigma through public education that addresses specific cultural barriers.