For Immediate Release:
February 10, 2004
Contact: Elizabeth Adams
Advocates Assail Budget Proposals to Deny
Life-Saving Access to Treatment for People in Need
NAMI-Florida supports legislators making tough budget choices with data
for cost-effective, smart decisions to benefit the entire community.
Tallahassee, FL – "The belief that cutting the budget for mental health medications in Medicaid saves money is false," said Mike Mathes, president of NAMI-Florida, before the Florida House appropriations subcommittee today in a hearing on Governor Bush’s proposed budget. "Denying access to effective medications for people with mental disorders has devastating community impact."
Mathes, representing the one in five Florida families affected by mental illnesses, argued that the perceived savings from restrictive medication polices, like preferred drug lists and prior authorizations, do not exist. "The impact of denying clinically prescribed treatment for mental illness is causing a crisis of expense in our jails, classrooms, courts, community hospital emergency departments, homeless shelters –and human life. In New Hampshire, for every dollar saved on restricting schizophrenia medication, $17 was spent in emergency service.
"That’s why NAMI-Florida’s Campaign for the Mind of America is expanding, with the national NAMI campaign, daily adding new, non-traditional partners like teachers, county officials, police, emergency physicians and business leaders. Community leaders see the mental health crisis in their workplace every day and are uniting with us to demand open access to treatment of mental illnesses," Mathes said.
Pointing to his own experience of watching his desperately ill daughter struggle heroically since childhood with a serious mental illness called bipolar disorder, Mathes says that with access to the clinically right medication she is now on the President’s List at her community college and looking forward to working soon as a contributing citizen in the community.
"Without open access to medications, men, women and children can and will descend into the hell of depression, of mania, and of psychosis," said Mathes. "Free access to the best medications keeps the men, women and children with serious mental illnesses in Florida, the state budget and our communities, stable and healthy."
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.