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July 24, 2001

NAMI Supports Rural Mental Health Accessibility Act of 2001 (S 859)

Accessing mental illness treatment and services is a particular challenge for individuals living in isolated rural communities. The challenges related to geographic isolation are too often further compounded by the stigma associated with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and severe anxiety disorders. Advances in scientific research and medical treatment for these serious brain disorders have been tremendous in recent years. Unfortunately, these advances in science and treatment have not always reached individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses living in isolated rural communities.

A bipartisan coalition of senators - led by Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) - have introduced legislation (S 859) to bring these advances in research and treatment to under-served rural areas.

Among the key provisions in the Rural Mental Health Accessibility Act (S 859) are:

A new $50 million competitive grant program for public education campaign targeted to rural communities to address the stigma associated with mental illness,

A new $100 million training grant program to address the severe shortage of mental illness treatment professionals in rural areas (one-fifth of rural counties have no qualified mental health professionals). Grants to universities under this program would allow mental illness treatment professionals to train along side primary care providers,

A new NIMH-Office of Rural Health study on the efficacy and effectiveness of telehealth technologies for mental illness treatment, and

A $30 million targeted demonstration program for children and the elderly in long-term care facilities located in mental health shortage areas.


NAMI strongly supports S 859 and urges advocates to contact their senators to urge them to support this important legislation by adding their names as cosponsors. All Senate offices can be reached through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. Fax numbers, email and mail addresses can be obtained by clicking on "Write to Congress" on the Public Policy home page of the NAMI Web site.

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