August 7, 2002
Congress Begins August Recess
Members of the Congress have begun their "district work period" for the entire month of August during which every member of the House and Senate will be making numerous public appearances at town meetings, radio call-in programs, campaign events, summer festivals, county fairs and parades. In addition, most members of Congress are working out of their district and state offices and are making themselves available to meet with groups of constituents - including NAMI affiliate leaders. These events create important opportunities for NAMI advocates to meet and interact directly with their elected officials to urge support for key legislative priorities including insurance parity, research and services funding, housing and the needs of children and adolescents.
All NAMI advocates are urged to set up meetings with their members of Congress and seek them out at any and all public appearances during the August recess to press them on federal legislative issues of concern to children and adults with severe mental illnesses and their families. All members of Congress can be reached through their state and local offices during the month of August. The phone numbers for these local offices can found in the Blue Pages of most phone books. In addition, these numbers can also be found at www.congress.org
NAMI advocates are urged to press members of Congress on the following legislative priorities:
- Insurance Parity - NAMI strongly supports federal legislation to require health plans to cover treatment for mental illness on the same terms and conditions as all other illnesses (S 543/HR 4066). It is especially important nthat all House members be
- reminded of President Bush's support for parity and
- urged to contact Speaker Dennis Hastert to insist that he bring parity legislation forward in September. NAMI's most recent alert on parity legislation.
- Mental Illness Research and Services Funding - NAMI supports increased funding for mental illness research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NAMI endorses efforts in Congress to complete the 5-year goal of doubling of the federal budget for medical research and supports an equitable share of increased funds for the NIMH. NAMI also supports increased funding for services programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration SAMHSA) that are targeted to helping states and localities replicate evidence-based programs directed toward children and adults with severe mental illnesses. NAMI's most recent alert on research and services funding.
- Children and Adolescent Issues - NAMI strongly supports federal legislation to authorize states to set up Medicaid "buy in" programs to assist families of children with severe disabilities to get the health coverage they need for their child's high cost needs (and in many cases to avoid having to relinquish custody). It is especially important for advocates to press their senators to urge Majority Leader Tom Daschle to schedule a vote on the Family Opportunity Act (HR 600/S 321) in September. NAMI's most recent alert on the Family Opportunity Act.
NAMI opposes efforts to erode current protections for children and adolescents with mental illness under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Additional information on threats to IDEA
- Housing - NAMI supports efforts to increase funding for key programs at HUD targeted to adults with severe mental illnesses (Section 811, permanent supportive housing under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, etc.). Of particular concern are efforts to ensure that there is adequate funding to renew all expiring rent subsidies under the 811, Shelter Plus Care and SHP permanent hosing programs. NAMIs update on the effort to ensure renewal funding for permanent housing under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
- Medicare - NAMI supports efforts to create parity for outpatient mental illness treatment services under Medicare (i.e., to eliminate the discriminatory 50% copay that applies only mental illness) and to add an outpatient prescription drug benefit to Medicare. NAMI's most recent alerts on Medicare prescription drug legislation
- Medicaid - NAMI affiliates across the country have been fighting deep cuts in their Medicaid budgets. In most instances, these proposed cuts are falling hardest on beneficiaries with mental illness. At the federal level, NAMI is supporting bipartisan efforts to increase the federal share of Medicaid (also known as FMAP) to relieve the burden of these cuts. NAMI also supports legislation to allow states to set up a new consolidated benefit for intensive mental health services including assertive community treatment (HR 2364/S 2072). NAMI's current position paper on Medicaid
- Criminal Justice Issues - NAMI supports full federal funding for the Mental Health Courts program at the Justice Department in order to help states and communities address the growing and disturbing trend of "criminalization" of mental illness. NAMI's current position paper on criminal justice issues