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White House Budget Proposal Puts People with Mental Illness at Risk

For Immediate Release

Contact: David Card
202.408.9514 x122

WASHINGTON – In October 19, 2017, published an article with a leaked White House budget memo detailing budget principles for future presidential budgets. One of the ideas contained in this memo repeats an idea already rejected by Congress to cut funding for the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) program and restrict the program to only investigating abuse and neglect at institutions.

This idea was first introduced in the Helping Families with Mental Health Crisis Act in 2013. In that legislation, the PAIMI program was initially cut by eighty-five percent and restricted to providing advocacy around abuse and neglect matters. These ideas were ultimately rejected by Congress during the legislative process and not included in the final version of the legislation that became law in the 21st Century Cures Act passed in December of 2016.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) stated in a January 2014 letter opposing the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act legislation:

The bill would gut the primary system of legal advocacy protection for individuals with serious mental health conditions, the PAIMI program, leaving them without means to enforce their legal protections from discrimination in key areas of life such as education, employment, housing, health care, community living, voting, and family rights.  The PAIMI program has been a leading driver of improvements in mental health service systems for the last several decades.  As a result of this program, tens of thousands of children and adults have secured better lives, receiving the services they need to succeed in school, obtaining the chance to live successfully in their own homes, becoming or retaining employment, and receiving needed health and mental health care…It is hard to imagine a more detrimental decision for individuals with serious mental health conditions.

The PAIMI program continues to provide needed protection and advocacy for individuals with serious mental illness whether they live in the community or in an institution.

The changes proposed in the leaked White House memo were not a good idea in 2013 and are not a good idea now. The White House and Congress should continue to reject an idea that will negatively impact hundreds of thousands of individuals with serious mental illness. 

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.