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NAMI Advocate e-newsletter, March 2006

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Dear Friend of NAMI,

In this issue of the NAMI Advocate e-newsletter we examine the release of NAMI’s Grading the States report with a spotlight on the Consumer and Family Test Drive. Additionally, we cover a new report on stigma, a book that examines the rapid cycling that exists today between hospitals, courthouses, and jails for people with serious mental illness, and more.

America's Report Card: NAMI Grades the States

NAMI recently released the first comprehensive state-by-state report on the state of America’s mental healthcare system for serious mental illness. The report, covered widely in media outlets throughout the United States, confirmed what President Bush’s New Freedom Commission called “a system in shambles.”

Simply put, treatment works, if you can get it. But in America today, it is clear that many people living with the most serious and persistent mental illnesses are not provided with the essential treatment they need. As a result, they are allowed to falter to the point of crisis. This neglect and lack of will by policymakers often results in horrendous consequences. The number of people with serious mental illness incarcerated in jails and prisons is on the rise. Emergency room use is increasing. The availability of housing is being threatened. Increasingly, access to effective treatments is being limited by many state governments.

This 2006 report, Grading the States: A Report on America’s Health Care System for Serious Mental Illness, has a number of audiences. NAMI intends the report to be a consumers’ guide to public services for adults with serious mental illness. We hope it will provide elected policymakers with a specific agenda for action. We also intend for this report to promote a dialogue among all stakeholders about what is and what is not working in the mental health system.

It is our strong sense that if we are to move forward, we must routinely engage in assessing the mental health care systems in every state. We hope that our publication of these reports at regular intervals will over time drive the creation of service systems in all states that are not “patchwork relics,” but ones of hope, opportunity, and recovery.

The 230-page report, including individual state narratives and scoring tables, is available online at

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Consumers & Families Test State Mental Health Agency Systems

Consumer & Family Test Drive

A unique and innovative component of Grading the States: A Report on America’s Health Care System for Serious Mental Illness is the “Consumer and Family Test Drive” (CFTD). NAMI wanted to evaluate each state’s mental health agency in real world situations because access to services depends on access to information. We therefore had consumers and family members navigate the Web site and telephone system of the state mental health agency in each state and rate their accessibility according to how easily one could obtain basic information.

This exercise was like a “pop quiz.” One that America failed. Over 80 percent of the states scored less than 50 percent of the total points. Read More...

Study Confirms That Stigma Still a Barrier to Psychiatric Care

New Report on StigmaA new study shows that while most Americans think that psychiatric drugs work, they probably wouldn’t ever use them.

The study, released by the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services at Indiana University, Bloomington, indicates that the stigma associated with taking antidepressants and psychiatric drugs remains high even though people increasingly understand mental illness and appreciate advances in treatment. Read More...

NAMI Book Shelf

This Issue:


Pete Earley is an award-winning investigative reporter whose previous books have been about spies, prisons, and the witness protection program. To some degree, this background may have prepared him to write Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, which will be released April 20, but as NAMI consumers, families, and friends know, nothing ever prepares a person for the shock of mental illness.

“I had no idea,” Earley begins.

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Earley’s son, Mike, recently out of college, broke into a stranger’s house to take a bubble bath and vandalized the premises. Frustration with an inability to get Mike into treatment—including his son’s periodic refusals to take medication—as well as the legal procedures surrounding mental illness, caused Earley to use his journalism skills to explore the rapid cycling that exists today between hospitals, courthouses, and jails. Read More...

Grading the States


   No state received an A grade for services

   17 states received an F grade for information access

   New York and Colorado were the only states not to respond to NAMI’s request for information

  Tennessee had the highest score on the Consumer and Family Test Drive but still only received 24.75 points out of a possible 40 points

   Illinois finances low-income housing from real estate transaction fees

   Kentucky set up a telephone triage system in jails financed through DWI fines

   District of Columbia ranks the highest in per capita mental health spending at $414.08 and has the nation's lowest suicide rate

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