National Alliance on Mental Illness
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For Immediate Release:
October 23, 2003

Elizabeth Adams


Task Force Formed to Develop Roadmap to Recovery and Cure of Serious Mental Illness

Arlington, VA — The NAMI Policy Research Institute (NPRI) today announced creation of a Task Force on Serious Mental Illness Research, co-chaired by Edward Scolnick, MD, president emeritus of Merck Research Laboratories and NAMI medical director Ken Duckworth, MD, who is the former mental health commissioner for Massachusetts. The Executive Committee of NAMI’s Scientific Council, chaired by Jack Gorman, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, will help coordinate the effort.

"NAMI takes seriously the statement of Dr.Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) that with the right investments, scientists are within reach of finding a cure for schizophrenia in the next ten years," said NAMI national executive director Richard C. Birkel, PhD. "The critical challenge is to set the right priorities for research investments and to insist that the clinical research enterprise translates readily into real world practice. In the long run these investments will mean both lives and money saved."

"Recent advances in biomedicine, including the decoding of the human genome, make possible a revolution in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses, a revolution that is already underway for other serious diseases," Scolnick said. "The fact that we have the knowledge and tools to develop newer, better-targeted medication for illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, with fewer side effects, demands that we make the appropriate research investments. The mission of the task force is to help provide a roadmap for that revolution."

"We also must invest in research that will make the effective interventions already achieved, along with those still to come, available to every individual with a serious mental illness as quickly as possible," said Duckworth. "While significant recovery is a possibility for most people suffering a serious mental illness today, too many barriers prevent that from happening. This is not only an issue of reforming the mental health system—which is desperately needed—but a research issue as well. Research is needed to guide effective mental health system reform and to provide a pipeline from treatment advances to real world outcomes."

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the main federal agency responsible for funding research on serious mental illnesses—with a budget of more than $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2003—will be the focus of the task force’s work.

"Given the unprecedented research opportunities that exist today, it is essential that NIMH use all of its resources wisely to expedite treatment advances in serious mental illness," said Gorman. "Researchers who have devoted their careers to help improve the lives of patients suffering from these terrible disorders and have benefited from NIMH’s initiatives are excited to work with NAMI in helping to develop a roadmap for mental illness research equal to that of any other serious medical problems Americans face."

The task force’s efforts initially will identify the major research areas requiring investment and the level of investment needed to achieve the most rapid progress possible. Initial reports will be published in early 2004.


Roadmap to Recovery and Cure:
NAMI Policy Research Institute Task Force
on Serious Mental Illness Research

Task Force Co-Chairs:

Edward M. Scolnick, MD President Emeritus, Merck Research Laboratories

Ken Duckworth, MD NAMI Medical Director

NAMI’s Scientific Advisory Council Executive Committee:

Chair Jack Gorman, MD  Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Robert Drake, MD  Director, New Hampshire-Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center

Kimberly Hoagwood, PhD  Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute

Carol Tamminga, MD  Professor of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center



As The Nation’s Voice on Mental Illness, NAMI leads a national grassroots effort to transform America’s mental health care system, combat stigma, support research, and attain adequate health insurance, housing, rehabilitation, jobs and family support for millions of Americans living with mental illnesses. NAMI’s one thousand affiliates are dedicated to public education, advocacy and support and receive generous donations from tens of thousands of individuals as well as grants from government, foundations and corporations. NAMI’s greatest asset, however, is its volunteers—who donate an estimated $135 million worth of their time each year.