NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. The NAMI organization operates at the local, state and national levels. Each level of the organization provides support, education, information and referral, and advocacy. Local affiliates and state organizations identify and work on issues most important to their community and state. Individual membership and the extraordinary work of hundreds of thousands of volunteer leaders is the lifeblood of NAMI’s local affiliates and state organizations. The national office, under the direction of an elected Board of Directors, provides strategic direction to the entire organization, support to NAMI’s state and affiliate members, governs the NAMI corporation, and engages in advocacy, education and leadership development nationally.
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NAMI Washington 2011/12 State Legislative Priorities
NAMI-WA’s positions are guided by the following principles:
The laws in this state must require that there be fair and just access to medical treatment and related supportive services for individuals with mental illnesses and their families and/or other support networks.
Early intensive care and treatment – including hospitalization in some cases – has proven to reduce long-term illness and disability. It is the best way for the State to reduce its long-term costs for the mental health system and, most importantly, to promote the potential for recovery for as many people as possible. In order to ensure the highest possible quality of service, the State should require programs, treatments and other services to be evidence-based or promising practices.
Treatment and related assistance needs to be holistic and comprehensive and should include the person’s psychiatric and general physical health, employment potential, housing, social network and mobility. These programs need to work in collaboration with one another and be recovery based. Involved family members, friends and others in an individual’s chosen ‘support network’ should have a positive, pro-active role in treatment planning and evaluating treatment effectiveness.
Community mental health organizations, private business and government entities must come together as collaborative partners in the treatment of mental illnesses and the reduction of societal stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Top Priority Items:
1. No Further Cuts in Mental Health Funding Any reduction in mental health services that result from budget cuts inevitably leads to increased use of hospital emergency rooms, more frequent incarceration and more homelessness – all of which cost more in the long run than does early intervention and outpatient treatment. This is especially true with regard to restrictions that deny or limit access to medications. NAMI recommends that there be no further cuts in existing mental health services.
2. No Further Cuts and Increase the Availability of Psychiatric inpatient Facilities Inpatient mental health evaluation and treatment are essential public health and safety functions. There is now a critical shortage of both voluntary and involuntary treatment facilities at all levels of service throughout the State. NAMI supports legislation that will increase the number of inpatient and short term crisis stabilization facilities and that will stop bed reductions at state hospitals. Washington has the fewest psychiatric hospital beds per capita in the nation. NAMI-WA recommends that there be no further cuts in existing mental health inpatient facilities.
3. Waiver of Restitution Payments for Individuals Living on Disability Income People who are disabled due to physical or mental health conditions are simply not able to make restitution payments that are often assessed by the court system. It typically costs more trying to collect on these assessments than is received in restitution payments. It is simply illogical and unfair to expect people on disability who are unable to work to make any kind of financial payments to others. Some other means must be found to compensate crime victims.
Other NAMI-WA Priorities:
4. Provide Affordable Housing to Meet the Needs of the Homeless and those at Risk of Becoming Homeless NAMI supports the recommendations of the state’s affordable housing and homelessness consortiums as well as local, County and State Ten-Year Plans to end Homelessness.
5. Comprehensive System of Recovery-Based Treatment and Related Services Treatment and related assistance needs to be holistic and comprehensive, providing not only continuity of care but also support for the individual’s psychiatric and general physical health, employment potential, housing, social network and mobility. These programs need to work in collaboration with one another and must be recovery based.
6. Expand and Improve Supported Employment/Skill Building Programs NAMI supports DSHS/HRSA efforts to increase the use of employment in the recovery process, including employment and skill development at mental health clubhouses.
7. Modification of ITA Language NAMI supports changing the language in the ITA from “imminent danger to self or others” to “substantial likelihood of danger to self or others”.
8. Expand Mental Health Services in Rural Areas Rural areas in Washington State are woefully underserved in regard to mental health needs.
9. Establish Certificates of Restoration of Opportunity (CROPP) This would act to bar the use of criminal records to deny housing, education and employment opportunities.
10. Court Proceedings for Mentally Ill Offenders Changes in the criminal justice system are needed to provide alternatives to incarceration and mitigation of legal financial obligations, when justified, for people with serious mental illnesses.
11. Electronic Medical Records Study Would provide for a single database to be shared among various agencies to promote access and continuity of care as well as more efficient and effective administration of legal services such as Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts and ITA.