The Fly in the Ointment

I’m a person with a disability, specifically a mental illness – or rather illnesses. I’ve posted before about a bill in the US House of Representatives (H.R. 3717) that is extremely problematic for anyone interested in me and my people living lives in the community and reaching for recovery. (In the vernacular, this bill freaks me out beyond comprehension.)

A letter from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities[1] lays out four main problems with H.R. 3717:

  • Eliminates funding for legal advocacy funding. To quote the letter: this “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…”
  • Strips HIPAA protections for those with psychiatric disability. This was the main focus of my previous blog post. That previous blog post particularly focused on the harm that could come to trauma survivors from this legislation.
  • Force a specific, rigid model of outpatient commitment on states, eliminating innovative programs.
  • Increase institutional care – particularly involuntary institutional care.

My state NAMI affiliate sent out an email[2] on July 5, 2014. To be fair to their position they are pushing for some sort of mental health reform to happen this year and are also interested in another bill (H.R. 4574). However, it’s the following from NAMI Minnesota’s email that particularly scares me:

While people are concerned with certain provisions in either bill, the reality is that the most controversial items likely won’t stay in. Therefore, we encourage people to let your congress people know that they need to do something this session. Your message is clear ‘I am a NAMI member and a (person living with a mental illness, family member, etc.) and I think it is time for Congress to take actions to improve the mental health system. Take the best from HR 3717 and from HR 4574 and pass it. We need action now.” NAMI Minnesota staff have already been in contact with many members of our congressional delegation but they need to hear from you as well.’” {Emphasis mine.}

The sentence in the above section that I’m most concerned about is the first. The state director does not say what controversial items won’t likely stay in. Nor does she define what she thinks are controversial. Nor does she share with her constituents what others’ concerns are with the bill.

I had hoped for better.

Meanwhile, please contact your congressperson and ask her or him not to cosponsor H.R. 3717 or to withdraw their support if they’ve already cosponsored. Here’s another link to the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities talking points.


  1. Members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities include American Foundation for the Blind, The Arc of the United States, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and Easter Seals.  ↩

  2. The July 5th email from NAMI Minnesota is on their website. You’ll have to scroll down for the most relevant parts.  ↩

In Category: RESOURCES

Alison Bergblom Johnson

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