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NAMI report cites failure of Congress to enact comprehensive mental health legislation for declining funding

December 12, 2014

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Momentum for reform of the nation’s mental health care system slowed in 2014 as a result of failure by Congress to enact comprehensive mental health care legislation and a decrease in the number of states strengthening investment in mental health services, according to a report released today by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The report State Mental Health Legislation 2014 stands in contrast to one issued in 2013 which described a dramatic response by many states following the tragedy at Sandy Hook  Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012.

From 2009 to 2012, states cut mental health budgets by $4.35 billion. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia began to restore funding in 2013 in the wake of heightened public awareness of mental health needs.

This year only 29 states and the District of Columbia increased funding for mental health services. Progress was made in some states, but according to the report, “much of the legislation felt like tinkering at the edges.”

Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin were leaders in enacting measures that might serve as models for other states in such areas as workforce shortages, children and youth, school-based mental health, employment and criminal justice.

“What a difference a year makes,” said NAMI Executive Director Mary Giliberti. “Last year, as the first anniversary of the Newtown tragedy approached, Americans could see progress flowing from both the White House Conference on Mental Health and state legislation.”

“This year, as the second anniversary approaches, progress has slowed and with the exception of a few members, Congress has been missing in action.”

“Public awareness of mental health concerns has not diminished. In 2014, the tragic death of Robin Williams was another dramatic reminder that no one is immune.”

“Unfortunately, people sometimes forget that tragedies are happening every day. They include people living with mental illness who end up in emergency rooms, people who end up in jail or homeless on the street. They include deaths by suicide. They include young people whose symptoms too often aren’t recognized early enough to avoid the worst outcomes.”

Overall, the mental health care system still needs to recover lost ground from the state budget cuts of 2009-2012.  But reinvestment is unsteady.

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