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June 19, 2005

NAMI Hears Call for Bold Leadership to Transform Mental Health System in America

AUSTIN, TX -- Two years after President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health issued a report with recommendations to begin transformation of a fragmented "system in shambles" for mental healthcare, King Davis, chair of University of Texas School of Social Work, believes it is time for the President to actually accept the recommendations in the White House Rose Garden.

The President also should call a summit and implement the report’s recommendations, Davis told the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), at the opening session of its national convention.

"We need a leader," he said.

Davis also proposed that the Commission be established as an ongoing body to monitor and generate change.

"The New Freedom Commission’s report was significant. It was bold in its vision, mission and goals."

Many events or factors drive transformations, he said. Expect them to be complex, expensive, controversial and to require oversight.

Although federal and state budget cuts are greatly hurting people with severe mental illnesses, and outlooks disheartening, "it is an opportunity to be bold" said NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick.

"New ideas are important."

Texas Commissioner of State Health Services Edwardo Sanchez said that mental illnesses for too long have been treated as "moral failures rather than medical problems." Money is being spent in all the wrong places—such as the criminal justice system, which in Texas, is the largest provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment for children and adults.

Sanchez called for integrated health approaches based on the principle of sound mind, sound body.

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