National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Celebrate! Final Parity Regulations under Mental Health Care Law are a "Crowning Achievement" in Ending Insurance Discrimination; Statement of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick issued the following statement on behalf of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization and a leader in the mental parity movement.

NAMI applauds and thanks President Obama and Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for issuing today the final regulations that define parity under federal law, requiring insurers to provide mental health care benefits on the same terms that they cover physical illnesses.

The regulations are a crowning achievement. They are the result of a 20-year bipartisan campaign by individuals and families affected by mental illness to end unfair discrimination that led to enactment of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008. They are essential to implementation of what is now the law of the land.

We also thank President George W. Bush and all members of Congress who played a role over the years leading to this moment. All Americans can applaud when our leaders, regardless of party, come together to move the nation forward on issues of this magnitude.

NAMI will prepare a more detailed analysis of the final regulations after close examination. There is still disappointment: the regulations will cover about 85 percent of the nation's population, but gaps in coverage exist. The regulations do not apply to managed care plans through Medicaid or the equally vital Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Some of our most vulnerable people are still being left behind.

There is still a challenging road ahead. NAMI will continue working to ensure vigorous implementation and enforcement and to build on a still rapidly evolving, integrated health care system.


October 3, 2013

Navy Shipyard Tragedy: NAMI Calls on Congress for Immediate Action on Mental Health

Arlington, Va-In the wake of the Navy Yard tragedy, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has called on the President and Congress to act immediately on mental health legislation that has been stalled since the collapse of the gun debate earlier this year.

"Congress has bills introduced that are about mental health. They are not about guns," said NAMI Executive Director Mike Fitzpatrick.  "They are modest proposals that will at least begin to make a difference."

"Mental illness does not discriminate between Republicans and Democrats. The bills are bipartisan. There is no reason that they cannot be enacted before the first anniversary of the Newtown tragedy in December."

In a broader statement addressing issues reflected in the Navy Shipyard tragedy on Sept. 16, Fitzpatrick declared: "Once again, the country is reeling from a senseless act of mass violence. Families and friends are grieving the loss of 12 innocent lives.   Although information about the tragedy is still emerging, it is clear that the gunman lived with mental health issues for many years. In recent weeks, his symptoms seemed like some associated withpsychosis, such as extreme paranoia. 

 His struggles were not a secret.  People who knew him observed symptoms of mental health disorders.  He had brushes with the law over the years, including misconduct with guns. He had at least eight disciplinary infractions during the time he served in the Navy Reserve Just last month, Newport, R.I.'s police responded to a call for help from him and were so concerned about his mental health that they reported their concerns to the Navy.  Yet nothing apparently was done at the time of these events to get him the mental health evaluation and care that might have averted tragedy.

The Navy Shipyard tragedy shares common factors with others, such as Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown. The common denominator is an individual struggling with mental illness with other people being aware of problems, but no meaningful action being taken in time to connect the person with effective services or support. Common factors include failures of understanding, resources, engagement, coordination or accountability. They can occur in schools, the health care system, law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Too often, there are no clear points of responsibility and few protocols.

Too often, the response to people experiencing psychiatric crisis in the United States bears little resemblance to the response given other medical conditions.  People do not know where to turn for help.  Treatment is unavailable or not provided until an emergency occurs.

Furthermore, care often lasts only until the emergency is over. Few people would expect, however, that a person having a heart attack would be given CPR, only to receive little or no care after being resuscitated. We would never tolerate such a system for any other health condition.       

Concrete steps can be taken immediately to address our nation's mental health care crisis and help prevent future tragedies. For example:

 Congress should immediately pass existing legislation introduced following the Newtown tragedy last year: the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act (S. 689), the Excellence in Mental Health Act (S. 264; HR 1263) and the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act (S. 162; HR 461).  These are modest proposals that will at least help make a difference. 

 All communities should have Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) involving police, mental health professionals and other partners. Approximately 2800 communities in the United States currently have CIT programs that that give police skills to handle psychiatric crises and get them to medical care.

 All communities should have mental health courts to help get treatment for people struggling with mental illness who commit non-violent offenses.

 Public education on mental health should be conducted throughout every community, including schools, military installations and veterans' facilities. Family education and support must also be integrated and routine within the mental health care system. Everyone should know symptoms and appropriate responses for mental health problems-free from prejudice or discrimination.

 Greater research is needed into how to engage more effectively individuals who are at risk of harm to themselves or others, in order to improve initial evaluations and ongoing treatment. 

As a nation, let's not wait again to act."           

                                        The Aurora Tragedy Anniversary and                                        the White House National Dialogue on Mental Health

ARLINGTON, Va., July 18, 2013 -- Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) issued the following statement about the significance of the coming weekend:

"One year ago on July 20, Americans were deeply saddened by the tragedy in Aurora Colorado, in which 12 people were killed and 70 wounded. 

This weekend on July 20, Albuquerque and Sacramento will hold forums as part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health.  A third forum will be held in New York City on July 23. 

These forums represent the start of the National Dialogue launched at the White House Conference on Mental Health on June 3. The dialogue will continue throughout the country in large and small communities in months ahead. 

Violence exists in America, but as the U.S. Surgeon General has reported, "the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small." When exceptions occur, they often are a sign that something has gone terribly wrong in the mental health care system. 

One in four American adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year. The majority receive no treatment. Young adults in their 20s are the most common age group to experience the first onset of psychosis. 

For them, the issue isn't guns. It is access to mental health care—a person being able to get help when it's needed. Commitment is needed to a mental health care system that includes mental health screening, early intervention, evidence-based mental health treatment and services, and family education and support. 

Starting this weekend, let the National Dialogue begin to build a strong national consensus from the bottom up. The President, Congress and state governments have already begun rising to the challenge, but more work is needed. 

The National Dialogue must help point the way, including a commitment to the long haul—to achieve the goal of recovery for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. 

One mom fights the system to help mentally ill son

USATODAY EST December 24, 2012

CINCINNATI — Mom Melissa Brown was driving her 10-year-old son, Max, to get chili when he told her, "You know, Mom, I'm going to kill you someday."

Brown knew Max was mentally ill, that something had been wrong since she was pregnant, but a chill ran through her.

She looked in the rearview mirror. He was looking back at her.

He was calm, and Brown wasn't afraid at that moment. But she knew he meant what he said.

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A Letter to the President and Vice President

The senseless shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. has left Americans with broken hearts and many questions. While it should not have taken a tragic event to recognize the mental health crisis in America, it is time for Congress and the rest of America to act.

As the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization NAMI will be at the vanguard pushing for improved mental health care for all Americans.

The executive director of NAMI, Mike Fitzpatrick, has sent letters to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden urging them to address mental health care head on and ensure that our country remains strong.

Click here to download [PDF] NAMI’s letter to President Obama.

Click here to download [PDF] NAMI’s letter to Vice President Biden.


The Long Battle to Rethink Mental Illness in Children

By Shirley S. Wang

The Wall Street Journal

Holed up in windowless hotel conference rooms near Washington, D.C., scientists have been busy rewriting the bible of American mental illness.

It is the first revision of the nearly 1,000-page tome in 15 years, and one of the top priorities of the insular conclave is to rethink some children's disorders, particularly bipolar disorder. The fear is that too many treatable children are slipping between the cracks, either because of misdiagnosis or—more controversially—because they suffer from a disease that hasn't even been defined yet.

His emotions change quickly throughout the day.

Pediatric bipolar illness is one of the most significant categories of psychiatric ailments in children, even though it came into existence as a diagnosis only in the mid-1990s. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. children are estimated to have been diagnosed with it. Many are heavily medicated.

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