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March 2, 2006


NAMI Calls on NY Legislature to Investigate State Office of Mental Health

Agency Stonewalling of National Survey Contrasted with Louisiana Response Despite Hurricane Katrina

Washington, D.C. - The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has called on the New York state legislature to investigate the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) after its refusal to participate in a national survey of state mental healthcare systems released this week.

"Access to mental healthcare depends on access to information," wrote NAMI national executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick in a March 1st letter to State Senator Thomas P. Morahan and Assemblyman Peter M. Rivera, chairmen of the Senate and Assembly legislative committees that oversee the agency.

"Accountability depends on openness. Public confidence cannot exist in healthcare systems that do not respond." 

In the first comprehensive report on mental healthcare systems in 15 years, NAMI was able to score every state and the District of Columbia, except for Colorado and New York, according to 39 specific, criteria, based in part on a survey completed by state mental health agencies during October-December 2005.

Colorado declined to participate in the survey because of "significant staffing reductions" and lack of data.

New York offered no excuse.

New York’s attitude was in "dramatic contrast" to that of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which participated in the survey "even in the wake of the catastrophe caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Fitzpatrick noted.

NAMI graded the states on "proven, cost-effective, recovery-oriented practices," based on the recommendations of a presidential commission and a recent report of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

New York’s neighbors received grades higher than the national average, which was a D. Connecticut received a B, the highest grade in the nation. New Jersey received a C, followed by Massachusetts and Vermont with C minuses. Pennsylvania received a D+.

NAMI asked the chairmen to seek and assess the information for themselves and release it publicly. It offered assistance in scoring the criteria in order to make comparisons to other states.

NAMI told the chairmen that it "does not prejudge the results of the investigation," except to note that in a special "Consumer and Family Test Drive" of state mental health agency Web sites and telephone systems for basic information accessibility, New York ranked 16th in the nation.

NAMI’s report, Grading the States: A Report on America’s Healthcare System for Serious Mental Illnesses, is available on-line at www.nami.org/grades.

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