Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mental Health Investment By States Slowed in 2014

By Jessica Hart, NAMI State Advocacy Manager

NAMI just released a report highlighting what went on in state legislatures in 2014 across the country when it comes to mental health issues. The report, State Mental Health Legislation 2014 shows that investment in mental health services slowed from last year and that when progress was made around specific policy issues much of the legislation felt like it only skimmed the surface.

This year, only 29 states and the District of Columbia increased funding for mental health services. Overall, the mental health care system still simply needs to recover lost ground from the state budget cuts of 2009-2012. But reinvestment is unsteady. See where your state fell in investment this year below.

There were some victories this year. Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin were leaders in the country by passing measures that can serve as models for other states in areas such as workforce shortage, children and youth, school-based mental health, employment and criminal justice.

Our policy recommendations for states in 2015 are:

  • Strengthen public mental health funding.
  • Hold public and private insurers and providers accountable for appropriate, high-quality services with measurement of outcomes.
  • Expand Medicaid with adequate coverage for mental health.
  • Implement effective practices such as first episode psychosis (FEP), assertive community treatment (ACT) and crisis intervention team (CIT) programs.

What can you do?

Write to your Governor and State Legislators to let them know that they need to make mental health care a priority.

Connect with your local NAMI to see how you can help advocate for mental health services and supports in your community.

Friday, December 5, 2014

NAMI Applauds Stay of Execution in Panetti Case

Ron Honberg, national director of public policy and legal affairs,
speaking on Democracy Now! (Photo: Screen Capture)

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

NAMI and other advocates won a victory—at least temporarily—when the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the scheduled execution of Scott Panetti in Texas on Dec. 3, with only seven hours to spare.

NAMI Executive Director Mary Gilberti expressed NAMI’s gratitude to the court, noting that Panetti has lived with severe schizophrenia for more than 30 years.

“The delusions and severe symptoms Mr.Panetti experiences every day have been unremitting since before his crime and have impacted profoundly on the course of this case. 

“In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas had applied too narrow a standard in assessing Panetti's competence to be executed and sent the case back for further consideration.  This year, despite no additional competency evaluation, Texas once again set a date for Mr. Panetti's execution. Now, the Fifth Circuit has intervened expressing concerns about the complicated legal questions raised in the rush to execute Mr. Panetti.

“After multiple rulings by courts and statements from individuals on all sides of the political spectrum that the execution of Panetti would offend all standards of modern decency, NAMI urges that the death penalty should be taken off the table once and for all in this tragic case,” Giliberti said.

Ron Honberg, NAMI Director of Public Policy and Legal Affairs has been an  advocate in the case for years, including the filing of an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, coordinating with NAMI Texas.

Three days prior to the Fifth Circuit stay. Honberg published a major op-ed in the Los Angeles Times stating: “Panetti’s execution— particularly as the product of an unreliable legal process—would be immoral and serve no purpose, either in retribution or to prevent similar crimes.”

National and international media interviewed Honberg about the case, including a joint TV interview on Democracy Now! with Panetti’s attorney, Kathryn Kase.

At least 100 people with mental illness have been put to death in the United States and hundreds more are awaiting execution. NAMI has previously published Double Tragedies, a report in conjunction with families of murder victims. The report gave voice to an "intersection" of concerns and made four recommendations:

  • Ban the death penalty for people with severe mental illness.
  • Reform the mental health care system to focus on treatment.
  • Recognize the needs of families of murder victims through rights to information and participation in criminal or mental health proceedings.
  • Families of executed persons also should be recognized as victims and given the assistance due to any victims of traumatic loss.

Proceedings in the Panetti case will continue. NAMI’s long-standing commitment to mental health care and criminal justice reforms will as well.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Inspiring Innovation through Connect4MentalHealth Partnerships

By Katrina Gay, NAMI Director of Communications

HUGS Program at NAMI Collier County.

As we celebrate the first anniversary of our Connect4MentalHealth (C4MH) alliance, we are energized in our commitment to work through this effort to help make mental health care a priority as today we announced the recipients of this year’s awards. By profiling and highlighting promising practices for those who live with mental illness, we are poised in our second year to expand and build on our early success as we continue efforts to elevate promising community practices that ensure the best possible care is available for individuals affected by mental illness.

Through the C4MH partnership, we were introduced this year to four outstanding programs, services and organizations that are going above and beyond to help individuals in their communities. 
Along with the other members of the alliance, The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council), Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck, we identified four pillars that we believe would provide the most comprehensive and innovative care to those in need:

  • Early intervention
  • Creative use of technology
  • Integration of services
  • Improved continuity of care

Expanding on the success of our initial effort, this fall we introduced the Community Innovation Awards process to honor four programs that embody those pillars of success. We focused our lens to recognizing programs that presented promise and ambition to advance us past our current understanding of mental health treatment and recovery.

More than one hundred applications were reviewed for the four awards, and today, the winners in each category were announced. As part of this recognition, they will receive a $10,000 award to continue their work and improve their services and will each be partnered with a mentor organization recognized by the C4MH initiative to support their work.

Four Innovators Receive This Year’s Connect4MentalHealth Recognition and Award

We join our C4MH partners in recognizing the winners of our Community Innovation Awards for their efforts and for their commitment. These four initiatives and organizations stand above as examples of innovation and integration as they strive to do whatever it takes to ensure successful lives for those with mental illness.

Early intervention: NAMI Collier County

NAMI of Collier County (Naples, Fla.) provides a comprehensive array of services to support individuals living with mental illness. The organization’s Health Under Guided Systems (HUGS) program, part of a broader mental health initiative known as “Beautiful Minds,” provides universal screenings to support the early identification of behavioral health problems in at-risk children up to age 18. The HUGS program has served more than 3,000 low-income, at-risk youth since 2010.

Creative Use of Technology: Crisis Text Line

Crisis Text Line (CTL) (New York) is the first free, nationwide, 24/7 text hotline for teens experiencing any type of crisis, including mental health-related issues like anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. In partnership with select crisis centers across the country, CTL hosts a network of 230 trained counselors (as of November 2014), who provide individualized support to teens using CTL’s software. CTL has exchanged more than 3.9 million messages with individuals in need since launching as a pilot program in August 2013.

Continuity of Care:  Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center (CDMHC)

Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center (CDMHC) (Charleston and Summerville, S.C.) provides emergency services, case management, and evidence- based outpatient counseling and psychiatric treatment for children, adolescents, adults and families. CDMHC’s Assessment/Mobile Crisis Program (A/MC) offers the only 24/7 psychiatric emergency response and intake team in South Carolina, responding to critical mental health issues anywhere in the area that would otherwise go un-served. Between July 2013 and June 2014, the A/MC team helped to prevent 2,080 emergency department admissions, successfully diverting many of those patients to outpatient services.

Service Integration: Robert Young Center

The Robert Young Center (RYC) (Moline, Ill.) is a comprehensive community mental health center and a fully integrated corporation within UnityPoint Health – Trinity. The RYC has partnered with the local Federally Qualified Community Health Care (CHC) Center in Iowa and Illinois to provide bidirectional integration of primary and behavioral healthcare for individuals with serious mental illness. Through this model, the RYC has helped integrate health services for individuals with serious mental illness, and has saved the state of Illinois more than $8.2 million in Medicaid costs since 2009.

NAMI is thankful to the many organizations who applied for these awards. The work being done in communities across the country is inspirational  It is through these opportunities that we can continue to work together, to learn from each other and to strive every day to provide the best possible care for all individuals affected by mental illness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What I’m Thankful for at NAMI

By Mary Giliberti, J.D., NAMI Executive Director

This Thanksgiving season, I am deeply grateful for those who share their stories and experiences to bring hope and help to others. I appreciate those who give time and talent so others may find the journey through mental illness a little less difficult.

This week, I worked on the NAMI HelpLine (1-800-950-6264) and gave thanks for all of our NAMI volunteers who answer calls, teach classes and lead support groups. I spoke to a mom in Texas who was exhausted by her daughter’s recent hospitalization and realized that she needed to get some support so she could be a better caregiver to her daughter. I was so thankful for the support group leaders in her community and in communities around the country.

At our Training of Trainers education event each year, I marvel at all of the ribbons that some of our volunteers wear, indicating that they teach and lead multiple NAMI programs. I ask them when they sleep and they invariably tell me that they get much more than they give. I hear the same from NAMI leaders and volunteers at state meetings and our national convention. And I am so deeply grateful for the transformational power of giving that brings healing and meaning to the experiences of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

I am thankful to prominent individuals who speak out at considerable cost to themselves. We appreciate State Senator Creigh Deeds of Virginia, who is advocating for better mental health care so no family will encounter the barriers that he did in seeking help for his son, Gus—barriers that led to Gus’ death late last year.

I am also grateful to Naomi Alexis, the sister of Aaron Alexis, the man who was sadly involved in the Washington Navy Yard tragedy in September 2013. She has spoken out in the national news media, noting that shame and lack of understanding of mental illness hurt her family’s efforts to seek help for her brother despite her requests. She urged families to contact NAMI for information and assistance.

I also deeply appreciate the inspirational stories that bring people hope for recovery and a passion for change. Noted psychologist and mental health advocate Dr. Patricia Deegan shared with NAMI convention-goers in September her personal journey and the critical role of her grandmother, who repeatedly urged her to go to the grocery store as Pat struggled with apathy and her diagnosis of schizophrenia. One day, Pat decided to go to the store and that small step led to another. Now Dr. Deegan develops tools to help people with mental illness communicate with their doctors about their goals and ensure that the treatment serves those goals.

NAMI’s good friend Patrick Kennedy uses his experience with mental illness and substance use to call us to advocate for equality and true parity, reminding us that discrimination against people with mental illness is the civil rights issue of our time.

As we begin the holiday season, I am grateful for the hope that starts with each of us when we bring light out of darkness and despair. I am thankful for all of the life experiences, difficult and inspirational, that have brought us to this place in life where we can be part of the NAMI movement—a movement that holds a hand, squeezes a shoulder, cries in solidarity, claps in celebration—a movement that cares and fights for a better tomorrow for all affected by mental illness. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Highlighting the Importance of Early Intervention

By Joni Agronin, NAMI Communications Coordinator

Mental illness affects young people at an alarming rate. One half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75 percent begin by age 24.  What’s even more astounding is that even after an onset of symptoms, the average young person does not get treatment until eight to 10 years later.

Donna Morton’s daughter lives with bipolar disorder. Even though she was diagnosed at age 12, it wasn’t until much later in her life that she finally received the support she needed from Henderson Behavioral Health.

After her first psychotic episode, Casey Morton was hospitalized for almost a month. “Toward the end of her stay we had to figure out what to do,” said Donna.  “She had broken up with her boyfriend who was also sick.  She couldn’t come home with me and she couldn’t live alone so we didn’t know what to do.” 

Donna happened to have a friend who worked for Henderson Behavioral Health and put her in contact with a woman named Celina King.  “This woman was a saint. She was so comforting and beautiful toward my daughter.” After her evaluation with Celina, Casey was accepted into their treatment program and moved in to their group home.  Donna remembers her daughter saying, “Wow, this is a program made for me.”

Henderson Behavioral Health is an organization in south Florida that believes a focus on early intervention can make an invaluable difference in the lives of individuals with mental illness and their families. Getting young people the treatment and supports they need in a timely manner drastically improves their futures and can prevent crises and other challenges.

Henderson is one of four exemplary programs being recognized by Connect4MentalHealth, a partnership between numerous mental health organizations that promotes innovation in our communities to help those living with mental illness. They have helped more than 700 adults each year live independent lifestyles in their supported housing program.

Casey currently lives in one of these supported housing facilities and is doing very well.  “The model that they have, starts people with a high level of support and make sure that they stay there until they are ready to take the next step,” said Donna. “Structure is so important and has made a huge difference for my daughter, she has really benefited from that.”

Donna said the greatest thing Henderson has done for her family is given them hope. “Sometimes the strain just becomes so much that you get worn down and wonder if things will ever improve but I have really seen maturity in my daughter. It’s really exciting for me as a mother watch the growth of my daughter.  It has taken her to a new level of responsibility for her own recovery.”

With the help and support of Henderson, Donna says her family is able to really enjoy the time they have together now. “The impact of programs like this extends beyond the individual. It really has a ripple effect and impacts the entire family.”

“You can get tied up with the negative sometimes but with assistance it takes things in a much better direction.”

Together with the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Lundbeck, NAMI affirms the need for localized, innovative, effective and sustainable approaches to address serious mental illness. Through Connect 4 Mental Health (C4MH),a nationwide initiative, we have joined together to call for communities to prioritize serious mental illness and encourage promising practices that help people, like Casey and Donna live healthier, fuller lives.

Medicare Part D Plans Are Changing. Open Enrollment Ends Dec. 7

By Jessica W. Hart, State Advocacy Manager

Are your prescription medications covered by Medicare? If they are, you should check your plan because Medicare Part D plans are changing and there might be a better option. Use this guide to compare plans and find one that is best for you.

If you or a family member receives Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), prescriptions are probably covered by a Medicare D plan. Medicare Part D open enrollment is the time of year when you can look at prescription drug plans in Medicare and keep your current plan or sign-up for another one. In 2015 all Part D plans are changing so now is the time to look. Plans are making changes to benefits and costs, and there are new plans in many areas of the country.

So, how could your Medicare Part D plan change?

Your current plan could change:

  • The monthly premium
  • The annual deductible
  • Your share of the costs (co-payment or coinsurance)
  • The list of the drugs it covers (formulary)
  • Additional coverage, if any, it offers beyond the discounts in the coverage gap
  • Use of policies that may restrict access to certain drugs, such as:
    • Requiring your doctor to justify why you need a certain drug before the plan will pay for it (prior authorization)
    • Requiring your doctor to prescribe a different drug in the same class of drugs first (step therapy)
    • Only letting you buy a certain amount of a drug at a time (quantity limits)

Use Medicare's plan finder to check to see what your plan is and if it still meets your needs. Enrollment for Medicare prescription drug coverage is open until Dec. 7, 2014.

The 2015 Medicare Prescription Drug Annual Open Enrollment guide is an easy read to help you explore the options. The guide is produced by Medicare Access for Patients Rx (MAPRx). NAMI is a member of MAPRx, which brings together organizations serving beneficiaries, family caregivers and health professionals to improve access to prescription medications and safeguard the well-being of Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D) beneficiaries.

Read more about the changes to Medicare Part D.

Friday, November 14, 2014

2015 Health Insurance Open Enrollment Starts Nov. 15

It’s time to look at your health care needs and options.

If you don’t have health insurance or are looking for more affordable health insurance and haven't looked at the Health Insurance Marketplace―open enrollment is the time to look. During “open enrollment” you can buy private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. Depending on your income you can get financial help to pay for health insurance. If you have affordable employer-provided health insurance or are already covered by Medicaid or Medicare you cannot receive financial help paying for private health insurance coverage.

Do You Already Have Health Insurance through the Marketplace?

If you do, you must re-enroll every year or you will be automatically re-enrolled. It is also important to report any changes to your income to the marketplace.

  • This is a good time to check your health insurance coverage and see if it still meets your health and mental health care needs.
  • Anyone can change health care plans during open enrollment, but most people will be re-enrolled automatically if they take no action.
  • Carefully read all health insurance notices and updates.

Check Your Coverage

  • Even if you like your health plan, new plans may be available and premiums or cost sharing may have changed since last year.
  • Even if your income has not changed, you could be eligible for more financial assistance.

If You Live with a Mental Illness, Pay Attention to Possible Changes

  • Are a broad range of health and mental health care providers included in the health plan’s network of providers?
  • Are there enough medical specialists in the network to meet your needs?
  • Are needed medications included in the plan’s list of covered prescription drugs?
  • Is there adequate access to non-clinical, mental health-specific services and supports?
  • Does the plan have service limits, such as caps on the number of office visits for therapy services?
  • Are mental health and substance use services covered to the same extent as other “physical” health benefits are covered?

Where You Can Get Help

Health insurance can be complicated. If you or your family member needs help understanding your options, can help. It breaks down health insurance terminology and will tell you where you can get help in your local community. Each state has health insurance “navigators” to assist individuals with enrollment in health insurance. You can also call the 24-hour phone line for help at 1-800-318-2596.

The Kaiser Family Foundation also put together some great resources including a video explaining health insurance and a calculator you can use to figure out about how much health insurance will cost for you if you buy it through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Important Dates to Remember

Nov. 15, 2014
Open enrollment begins

Dec. 15, 2014
Enroll before this date to have coverage Jan. 1, 2015

Feb. 15, 2015
Open enrollment ends

More information on specific topics for each state can be found at the National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative.