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NAMI Opposes Michigan Move To Restrict
Medicaid Access to Drugs

For Immediate Release: November 14, 2001
Contact: Anne-Marie Chace 703-524-7600

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has called on state legislators in Michigan to refrain from adopting a Medicaid drug formulary plan that would place strict restrictions on consumer access to certain medicines.

In a November 13th letter to State Senate Majority Leader Dan DeGrow and others, NAMI executive director Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D. warned that the plan may prove to be "penny-wise and pound foolish," by sharply limiting access to life-saving medicines for people with severe mental illnesses. He called instead for further study of the impact on people who suffer from severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression..

"Because of the complexity of the brain, no one medication works for everyone with a severe mental illness," Birkel said. "Our concern with the proposed formulary is that discretion will be removed from treating clinicians to determine medications that work best for their patients."

The proposed Michigan formulary would be determined by a panel selecting a minimum of two drugs from each of 40 therapeutic categories. Doctors would be free to prescribe those drugs, but have to seek approval to prescribe others.

"It is well documented that the consequences of failing to provide individualized, appropriate treatment for people with severe mental illnesses are frequently public dependency, homelessness, criminal incarceration or death," Birkel said. "Decisions regarding medications must be made by the treating clinician, not by a state agency."

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