National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Election 2008: Now What?

After an historic election cycle that lasted two years and featured many candidates, the 2008 presidential election has been decided.  Barack Obama will take the oath of office for the presidency in January.  Both houses of Congress—the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate—now have Democratic majorities.  What does the future hold?

So much has happened in just the past six months that affects mental health care: Congress’s passage of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 and the Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 were included in the massive Emergency Economic Stabilization Act that rescued banks only weeks before the election. The economic crisis inevitably will affect health care as a whole, especially in terms of state budgets for mental health services. Meanwhile, American troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq will have mental health needs at home.   All these events and needs will require creative leadership and collective courses of action.

"NAMI is excited and looking forward to working with the new administration," commented Andrew Sperling, NAMI Director of Federal Affairs.  "If the new president and the Democratic-controlled Congress undertake healthcare reform, NAMI will be ready to act from a position of strength.  The newly minted parity law means that mental illness will be covered equitably, and any comprehensive healthcare reform bill will mean that people with mental illness and their families will no longer be subjected to limitations on conditions that don’t also apply to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease."

During the election campaign, NAMI took the lead in asking questions of the candidates about mental health issues. A review of President-elect Obama's answers may offer insight into things to come. But it will take more than a president to achieve these goals. It will require action by Congress, governors, and other elected officials, which means NAMI will be working hard and continuing to rely on grassroots action.