News & Press

Moultrians at NAMI National Conference Lobby for Mental Health Support

By Kevin C. Hall 15 hrs ago
MOULTRIE, Ga. — As the U.S. Senate debates what to do with a health care bill that has divided the Republican Party’s conservative and moderate wings, a thousand members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness met with lawmakers to encourage more support for those with mental illness.

Lynn Wilson was one of three Moultrians in the group who met with senators and representatives last Thursday in conjunction with the NAMI National Conference, which was held in Washington, D.C.

“Our purpose was for them to listen,” Wilson said, “and I think they did.”

The Moultrians were among 30 Georgians who met with staff from the offices of Sen. Johnny Isakson and Sen. David Perdue. NAMI arranged for groups to meet with each state’s senators or their staffs simultaneously, Wilson said, to demonstrate the size of NAMI’s support.

Wilson described the senators’ staffs as “non-committal” and said, “They kept their cards close to their chest.”

After that meeting, state delegations broke up to meet with representatives from their own districts. Wilson was among four people who visited the staff of Rep. Austin Scott, where she said they got a warmer welcome.

She said the staff told them, “Congressman Scott is aware of the problems with mental health.”

“We got the sense when it comes back to the legislature, that Scott has an understanding of the issue,” Wilson said.

Wilson was a founder of the Moultrie chapter of NAMI.

Republicans have promised to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act — nicknamed “Obamacare” — ever since it was passed seven years ago. The promise led to Republican dominance in the House, Senate and the White House, but now the actual process of fulfilling that vow has been difficult.

The House of Representatives passed a version called the American Health Care Act, but instead of voting on it, Senate Republicans crafted their own measure. Democrats are united against any change, and the Senate measure in particular has brought opposition from various factions in the Republican Party as well.

NAMI’s national office analyzed the Senate bill to determine its effects on mental health care and found it to be threatening. The group presented the delegates at its national convention with a list of talking points explaining its position on elements of the plan.

Since then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, orchestrator of the initial Senate bill, expected to reveal a revised version Thursday, but conservative Republicans already are saying it doesn’t go far enough.

Based on the original Senate bill, NAMI took these positions:

• Protect Medicaid and mental health coverage, both of which will suffer funding cuts under the Senate bill.

• Invest in FY 2018 funding for mental health. The NAMI talking points list health, housing and Department of Justice programs totaling tens of billions of dollars, including a $2 billion increase in funds to the National Institutes of Health.

• Support decriminalizing mental illness by diverting mentally ill offenders to treatment programs.

• Support military and veterans’ mental health.

• Support early intervention for psychosis.

• Support research and innovation.

• Support mental health family caregivers.


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