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U.S. Senate Urgently Needs to Extend "Medicaid Match" in Economic Recovery Legislation

10-Year Freeze on Mental Health Block Grants Contributes to State Mental Health Crises

Feb. 24, 2010

Washington, D.C.— At a special briefing for Congressional staff today, former Connecticut lieutenant governor Kevin Sullivan testified for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on the need for federal action to address the growing mental health crisis in states.

"We are facing a trifecta of budget challenges at the state level that is a direct result of America’s economic distress," said Sullivan, a member of NAMI's national board of directors.

"States are struggling with declining revenues, deep cuts in mental health services for children and adults who live with serious mental illness, and increasing demand for mental health care."

Sullivan called for support of an amendment to pending economic recovery legislation planned by Senator Jay Rockefeller (WV) for a six-month extension of a higher "Medicaid match"—which the House of Representatives has passed. He also called for an increase in the $420 million mental health block grant program that has been frozen without increases for inflation for the past 10 years.

"The federal government must help," Sullivan said.

"Devastating cuts in state mental health budgets ironically are costing states even more through lost jobs and careers, broken families, more homelessness, higher insurance costs, more welfare and much more expensive costs for hospital emergency rooms, nursing homes, schools, police and courts, jails and prisons."

"Medicaid especially is a lifeline."

"State cuts have come at a time when the need for help is increasing. We've been hit by the worst economic times and highest unemployment in more than 25 years. Unemployed workers report symptoms of severe mental illness four times more than people who still have jobs. Four times as many report thoughts of suicide."

"Returning combat veterans also are experiencing very high rates of serious mental illness, suicide, addiction, homelessness and incarceration related to posttraumatic stress disorder."

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NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy.

www.nami.org/stateadvocacy
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