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Press_Release_Archive

The President's Speech & Mental Health Care

September 10, 2009

Washington, D.C. Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), released the following statement on President Obama's remarks on health care to the Joint Session of Congress:

"NAMI agrees with President Obama that the time for action on health care reform is now. It is time for both Democrats and Republicans to come together and deliver on what, for too many years, have only been promises.

Mental illness—like most illnesses—does not discriminate. It affects Democrats and Republicans alike. It affects the young and the old. Too many parents are forced to confront "the sheer helplessness and terror" that comes when their children—at any age—become gravely ill.

That is the experience of NAMI members. It is the experience of too many Americans. For those who already have health insurance, health care reform will prohibit denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, arbitrary caps on annual or lifetime coverage or excessive charges for out-of-pocket expenses.

NAMI also will continue to work for four key areas of reform.

  • Full parity of insurance coverage for mental illness and addictive disorders in all private and public health plans.
  • Full integration of mental and physical health care, including early identification and intervention for mental illness in children and adolescents. People with serious mental illness die on average 25 years younger than the rest of the population. On average, a gap of almost 10 years exists been the onset of symptoms and intervention.
  • Elimination of the existing prohibition against Medicaid dollars being used for inpatient psychiatric or substance abuse treatment—the kind of discrimination that leads to dumping people from hospitals into homeless shelters.
  • Improved data collection, outcomes measurement and accountability. Good numbers are essential to reform and the measurement of progress, failure or success. Data collection in mental health care lags far behind other health disciplines. Federal health care reform must create a framework for state mental health care systems to develop comprehensive, uniform, meaningful data in order to move into the future.

We call on Congress to move forward.

Do not retreat. Do not stand still.

Do not forget that mental illness can strike anyone at any time. The time for action is now."

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