National Alliance on Mental Illness
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The Positive Aging Act of 2004

June 29, 2004

On June 24, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Susan Collins and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced the "Positive Aging Act of 2004", in a press conference on Capitol Hill.

This bi-partisan legislation, which was introduced in both houses of Congress, calls for improved mental health care among the senior population. Mental illnesses such as depression and dementia are common among aging Americans; however, America’s current health care system is not positioned to appropriately identify and treat these problems. With this new legislation, grants would be awarded through the Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Administration on Aging, to create models of integrated care systems. These systems would allow for mental health services to be available in a primary care setting.  Also, grants would be allotted for the creation of community-based mental health treatment outreach teams.

NAMI supports this effort to provide appropriate and much needed mental health care services to the senior population. Please send a letter to your representatives requesting that they support this legislation as well.  Enter your zip code below to access a sample letter on this issue and a list of your represenetative to contact now.  If you do not see the box for entering your zip code, click here.

Below are some important points that are included in the letter:

  • Approximately 25 percent of the seniors population experiences significant clinical depression.
  • Approximately 10 percent of the senior population suffers from dementia.
  • Seniors are at the highest risk for suicide, out of all age groups in the American population.
  • Primary care physicians identify mental illnesses only 50 percent of the time, although 25 percent of all patients seen in a primary care setting have a mental illness.
  • 20 percent of seniors who commit suicide do so on the same day that they have seen their primary care physician.

Thank you for you advocacy!