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NAMI Advocates In Congress Continue Push for Working Group On Mental Illness

Chris Marshall 703/524-7600
  For Immediate Release
23 Oct 98

Efforts in Congress to push for a special panel to examine gaps in the public treatment system for people with severe mental illnesses are continuing. Even though Congress has adjourned for the year, a bipartisan group of House members, led by Representatives Marge Roukema (R-NJ) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), are still pushing House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to appoint a working group. The working group is intended to address the significant lack of available treatment in the public mental health system for people with serious brain disorders and existing barriers to effective treatment. In the days leading up to adjournment, Representatives Roukema and Kaptur introduced H.Res. 596, specifically requesting the sense of the Congress on the need to:

a) recognize mental illnesses as biologically-based brain disorders,

b) call for advances in effective treatment,

c) address gaps in the public system keeping people with serious brain disorders from accessing efficacious treatments,

d) address the lack of strong community support to consumers and family members, and

e) establish a Congressional Working Group on Mental Illness to review and advise on these issues.


NAMI grassroots are urged to contact their House members and encourage them to support H.Res. 596. The time is now for Congress to recognize the struggles of people with serious brain disorders and their families by creating this working group on mental illness. The coming weeks and months are critical to establishing a mechanism for our voice to be heard in Congress. All House offices can be reached by calling 202-224-3121. To obtain email addresses, click here. House offices can be reached by writing to The Honorable ________, U. S.

House of Representatives, Washington D.C. 20515.

Below is H. Res. 596. Please refer to the August 6 NAMI E-News, for NAMI’s reaction to the proposed working group and the letter sent to House Speaker Gingrich from Representatives Roukema and Kaptur.


2d Session

H. RES. 596

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the seriousness of the national problems associated with mental illness and with respect to congressional intent to establish a ‘Mental Illness Working Group’.


October 13, 1998

Mrs. ROUKEMA (for herself and Ms. KAPTUR) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Commerce.


Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the seriousness of the national problems associated with mental illness and with respect to congressional intent to establish a ‘Mental Illness Working Group’.

Whereas mental illness is not a character flaw, but a tangible and treatable illness as real as epilepsy, hypertension, cancer or heart disease;

Whereas great strides are being made in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness;

Whereas there remain gaping holes in the network of Federal, State and local services designed to identify and treat people with mental illness;

Whereas millions of Americans suffer from the debilitating effects of serious mental illnesses;

Whereas, more and more, America is witnessing violence resulting from untreated mental illness and a failed policy of deinstitutionalization without any proper community follow-up;

Whereas, all too often, we hear of situations where an individual with a mental disorder has not received adequate treatment and has reacted violently and endangered himself or herself, or, tragically, taken the life of another;

Whereas such a situation occurred at the Capitol when officer Jacob J.

Chestnut and Special Agent John Gibson tragically lost their lives;

Whereas last year alone, over 1,000 homicides were directly attributable to improperly treated mental illnesses;

Whereas far too many lives are being lost because our country and our communities are not providing early diagnosis, adequate protection, or treatment to individuals with mental illnesses;

Whereas, although the treatment of the mentally ill is primarily a function of the separate States, there is a significant sharing of costs between the Federal Government and the States for such treatment, and there are some joint responsibilities of the Federal Government and the States for such treatment;

Whereas Federal issues involving the mentally ill fall under the jurisdiction of several committee jurisdictions, including Education and the Workforce, Ways and Means, Judiciary, Commerce, Veterans’ Affairs, Appropriations and Banking through such issues as Medicaid/SSI, housing, nondiscrimination, prison care, health coverage, the mental health block grants;

Whereas overlapping legal and administrative authorities with respect to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness make reform of the current system very complex;

Whereas it is necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of the effectiveness of mental health block grants and of the Federal prison costs attributed to mental illness; and

Whereas it is also necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of issues relating to reciprocity between the States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that there should be established a ‘Mental Illness Working Group’ that would be responsible for probing the serious national dimensions of the mentally ill, including determining the extent to which individuals with mental illness are not receiving proper treatment and the extent to which violence is resulting from the lack of such treatment and prepare a report to the Committees of jurisdiction outlining options for more effective diagnosis and treatment.


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