National Alliance on Mental Illness
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February 25, 2002

Action Needed To Include Funds in House and Senate Budget Resolutions to Support the Family Opportunity Act

In the upcoming weeks, both the House and Senate Budget committees will be putting together their FY 2003 budgets. Last year, advocates for the Family Opportunity Act (FOA), including NAMI and the sponsors of this important legislation, worked hard to get a reserve fund in the FY 2002 budget to fully fund FOA (S 321 & HR 600). With Congress adjourning last year without passing the Family Opportunity Act, advocates must again push to have a reserve fund included in the budget resolutions that pass both the House and the Senate.

The FOA, sponsored by Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Representatives Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), has tremendous bipartisan support with 75 Senate cosponsors and 213 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. 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 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 and 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.

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. For more information on other provisions included in the bill please see The Family Opportunity Act (NAMI E-news, April 6, 2001).

Action Requested

  • All NAMI members and advocates whose members of Congress are either on the House or Senate Budget committees (see links below) are urged to contact their Senator or Representative and ask that they support including a reserve fund for the Family Opportunity Act in the FY 03 budget. If your Representatives are cosponsors of FOA, please thank them and remind them of the importance of this legislation to families and children with severe mental illness.
  • All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or by visiting Write to Congress.

Click on the links below to locate members of each committee:

To see if your Senators or Representative are cosponsors of the Family Opportunity Act, visit Thomas: Legislative Information on the Internet and search on Senate bill S321 and House bill HR600.