October 5, 2005

NAMI’s Statehouse Spotlight is a biweekly electronic public policy news resource containing recaps of recent media coverage and useful grassroots tools gathered from across the country.  NAMI leaders and advocates are encouraged to use this information to energize their thinking as they plan future advocacy efforts.

News from the States

To follow up on any of the items featured in this publication, please contact Steven Buck, director of state policy at sbuck@nami.org

SAMHSA Awards System Transformation Grants

Seven states (Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington) have been awarded system transformation grants by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant program hopes to highlight real-world experience to determine what does and doesn’t work in transforming state-level mental health systems. The grant program will distribute $18.5 million in the first year and comparable amounts in subsequent years, and requires the grantees to enlist consumers and family members as active partners in all transformation planning and activities. (SAMHSA Press Release, September 28, 2005)

Vermont Medicaid Trades Capped Funding for Greater Flexibility

Starting Saturday, October 1, 2005, Vermont has accepted five years of capped federal investment in Medicaid in exchange for greater flexibility in benefits design and covered populations. Governor Jim Douglas predicts the agreement, called the Global Commitment to Health, will save the state money by turning the program over to a statewide managed care organization. Despite this agreement, the state is still exploring strategies to meet a $300 million shortfall over the same five-year period for Medicaid. Historically, Vermont has enjoyed a 60% state match from the federal government. (The Washington Times, October 3, 2005)

NAMI Iowa Participates in Medicare Rx Access Network of Iowa

NAMI Iowa and several partner organizations, including the Visiting Nurses Association, Arthritis Foundation of Iowa, and the Iowa Medical Society, have joined together to promote educational outreach to citizens of the state to increase knowledge on the pending implementation of Medicare Part D. In Iowa, 500,000 current Medicare beneficiaries will soon enjoy a pharmaceutical benefit in addition to thousands of current Medicaid participants that will soon receive prescriptions through Medicare. The primary educational model employed by the coalition will be “train-the-trainers” sessions and enrollment events. (Des Moines Register, September 27, 2005)

Star+Plus Expanding in Texas

Texas, sharing the same revenue and cost pressures experienced by state governments across the country, is expanding its STAR+Plus network for the state’s aged, blind, and disabled populations (ABD). The expanded use of managed care within state Medicaid programs is consistent with national trends. Proponents and opponents to the expansion present differing perspectives on two critical questions: First, does the expansion of managed care increase or decrease overall quality of care? Second, will the historically lower reimbursement rates paid to providers in Medicaid managed care cause providers to care for only those in private insurance programs and bypass Medicaid recipients? (East Texas Review, September 29, 2005)

Revenue Boom Creates Opportunity in Energy-Belt States

With the current price of oil hovering in the $70/barrel range, states such as Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Mexico are uniquely positioned to have significant revenue available for investment in services, savings, or refund to constituents. The elation of officials in these states about the excess revenue, however, is tempered by their memories of the early 1980’s when the energy sector collapsed and the same states were forced into drastic cost-cutting. Current trends suggest investment in education and healthcare in revenue-rich states and replenishment of cash reserves that were drained a few short years ago in the recession. (Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2005)

Missouri Reform Committee Snubs Southern Counties

With accusations flowing both ways across party lines, the Republican-led commission charged with reforming the state’s Medicaid program has cancelled public input meetings previously scheduled for the southern part of the state. One in three of the state’s Medicaid recipients live in Southern Missouri and now must travel to mid-state locations to provide public input on this process. Missouri was hit hard by cuts in both services and eligible populations earlier this year, and Medicaid is the defining issue in the 2006 electoral cycle. (Columbia Daily Tribune, October 2, 2005)

Governor and Legislature Agree to Spare Medicaid Cuts

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed a $41 billion budget for the state that preserves services and eligibility for persons served by the state Medicaid program. Included among the cuts to offset the preservation of the Medicaid budget was the cancellation of an $18 million contract for a private youth correctional facility. (Lansing State Journal, October 1, 2005)

NAMI Advocacy Tools & Resources

In mid-September, the National Institute of Mental Health released the long-anticipated results of the first phase of the CATIE study (Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness). This first phase, which had an 18-month duration and included more than 1,400 people, has created a major stir in the public policy sector related to preferred drug lists and restrictions to access to medications. NAMI remains committed to access to appropriate medications for people living with mental illness and has prepared several advocacy tools that will be valuable to NAMI leaders as they discuss CATIE with local Medicaid officials and other policymakers. To access these resources, visit www.nami.org/catie.

NAMI is a partner with other leading mental health organizations in sponsoring a new Web site for the latest information on Medicare Part D, Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, especially for consumers without coverage or those who currently receive prescriptions through Medicaid. Visit www.mentalhealthpartd.org. The new benefit starts January 1, 2006, and will mean changes for many people receiving treatment for mental illnesses.

Washington Quick Glance

NAMI Leaders Called on to Help End the Tragedy of Custody Relinquishment

NAMI continues to hear from families with children with mental illnesses from across the country that are forced to relinquish custody of their child to the state for the sole purpose of accessing mental health services. It is a national scandal that in 2005, families must go through such drastic measures to access care for a seriously ill child. We would not think of asking families with a child with cancer to give up custody of their child to access chemotherapy and it is fundamentally wrong to ask this of families with a child with a serious mental illness.
The Keeping Families Together Act (KFTA) -- Senate Bill S. 380 and House Bill H.R. 823 -- promises to help end this unthinkable practice by providing grants to states to build more appropriate systems of care for children with mental illness and their families. Contact members of the committees with jurisdiction over this legislation -- the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) and the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- to ask for their sponsorship of the KFTA. (Visit help.senate.gov for a list of HELP committee members and energycommerce.house.gov for a list of House Energy and Commerce Committee members.) The time is long overdue to end the unthinkable -- and un-American -- practice of custody relinquishment.

For talking points and to read more about the legislation, visit the Child & Adolescent Action Center section of the NAMI Web site.

Campaign for the Mind of AmericaNAMI Statehouse Spotlight is an electronic newsletter provided free of charge as a public service. With more than 1,100 state and local affiliates, NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with severe mental illnesses. Contributions to support our work can be made online at www.nami.org/donate.

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