National Alliance on Mental Illness
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 Family Opportunity Act

For Immediate Release, April 3, 2001
Contact: Chris Marshall


Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 83) that included full funding for the Family Opportunity Act, thanks to the hard work of Representatives Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the other 131 cosponsors of HR 600. This week, the Senate will be taking up a budget resolution that currently does not include funding for FOA (S 321). Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), sponsors of this important legislation, are planning to offer an amendment on the Senate floor to create a reserve fund for the Family Opportunity Act -- $7.9 billion over 10 years that would come out of the on-budget surplus, commonly referred to as the contingency fund.

It is imperative that members of the Senate hear from NAMI advocates supporting appropriations in the budget resolution to fund the Family Opportunity Act-which will be an important step in building support for the bill's passage.


- All NAMI members and advocates are urged to contact their Senators TODAY and TOMORROW and ask that they support the Grassley / Kennedy amendment to create a reserve fund for FOA. If your Senator is a cosponsor of FOA, please remind them of the importance of this legislation to families and children with severe mental illness.

- All senators can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or by going to the policy page of the NAMI web site at and click on "Write to Congress."

Cosponsors of S 321

To find out if your Senators are cosponsors of the Family Opportunity Act, please visit:|/bss/d107query.html 


On February 8, 2001, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the Family Opportunity Act, also referred to as the "Dylan Lee James Act", S 321. This landmark legislation is intended to end the financial devastation that families too often encounter in attempting to access quality treatment for their children with severe mental illnesses. As many NAMI members know firsthand, families are often tragically forced to give up custody of their children to obtain the most appropriate treatment services for them. This legislation offers stability and recovery to children with severe and chronic disabling disorders, including early-onset mental illnesses and is a measure that will help put an end to this horrible choice that loving and caring families must make in cases where there has been no abuse or neglect.

S 321 - A Major Step Forward for Families of Children With Disabilities

The Family Opportunity Act restores hope for children with severe mental illnesses and their families. Under the bill, states would be able to offer Medicaid coverage to children with severe disabilities living in middle income families through a buy-in program. Cost-sharing on a sliding scale up to the full premium cost will be required within certain guidelines that protect lower income families. Currently, families must stay impoverished, place their child in an out of home placement or simply give up custody in order to secure the health care services their child needs under Medicaid.

S 321 also authorizes a new time-limited demonstration program that will allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to children with potentially severe disabilities who, without access to the health care services available through Medicaid can be reasonably expected to become severe enough to qualify them for SSI. Another key provision would allow states the option to include children receiving hospital psychiatric services in home and community-based waivers. Finally, S 321 would establish "Family to Family Health Information Centers." These programs would assist and support families of children with disabilities and/or special health care needs. These centers, staffed by both parents of children with special needs and professionals, would provide technical assistance and information to families on health care programs and services available and appropriate for children with disabilities and/or special needs.