NAMI Releases Annual Review of the States

NYAPRS Note: NAMI has released its third annual review of the states with mixed findings: fewer states increased mental health spending this year - just 23 states, compared to 36 states and D.C. that boosted their mental health budgets in 2013. Eleven states and D.C. decreased their mental health budgets this year.

“Thirty-six states adopted one or more measures in 2015 that received gold stars. Minnesota, New York and Virginia stand out as showing some of the strongest leadership. Minnesota and Virginia have earned the distinction for the second year in a row.

New York was regarded as a national leader in parity enforcement through legislation and litigation and lauded for driving down prison populations by about 25% while simultaneously reducing crime rates and for increasing mental health budget in 2014 and 2015. It was also recognized for the newly approved mental health tax check off program that will be “used to start a fund for the New York State Office of Mental Health to use for a mental health public awareness campaign.”

NAMI recognized a volume of legislation in 2015 that addressed broad systemic issues such as Medicaid, insurance parity, workforce capacity, school-based mental health, criminal justice and suicide prevention. However, they found scant attention being paid to early identification and early intervention, school-linked mental health services or housing and employment initiatives.


State Mental Health Legislation 2015

Trends, Themes & Effective Practices

NAMI’s report, State Mental Health Legislation: Trends, Themes and Effective Practices, highlights the good and bad news in states’ approaches to mental health.


The good news is that in 2015, 35 states adopted one or more measures that NAMI applauds with a Gold Star—and five states passed model legislation.


The bad news is that, at a time when public awareness of the need for mental health reform continues to increase, funding for mental health services fell in more states than it grew. This is the third year in a row the number of states willing to increase spending on mental health shrank.


Fewer than half of states increased their mental health budgets this year. The rest reduced funding, including three states that have been in steady decline over three years—Alaska, North Carolina and Wyoming.  Only eleven states have steadily increased investment from 2013 to 2015: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.


The report also highlights legislation that helps improve mental health systems or services. Five bills stood out:

  • AZ HB 2488 (Housing). Housing is a cornerstone of recovery for people with mental illness, yet, on average, the rent for a studio apartment rent exceeds 90% of disability income. This legislation creates a housing trust fund for rental assistance to people with serious mental illness. 
  • MN SF 1458 (First Episode Psychosis program). Leading research shows that early intervention through First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs enables young people to manage psychosis and get on with their lives. This legislation supplements federal dollars to support evidence-based FEP programs. 
  • UT HB 348 (Criminal Justice and Mental Health). People with mental illness who would be better served with mental health services and supports too often end up in jails and prisons. This legislation requires the state departments of corrections and mental health to collaborate on providing mental health treatment to inmates, developing alternatives to incarceration and implementing graduated sanctions and incentives.
  • VA HB 2118 (Psychiatric Inpatient Beds). Finding a psychiatric bed in a crisis is challenging. As a result, people with mental illness are often boarded in emergency departments for exceptionally long periods. Lack of information on the availability of psychiatric beds throughout a state is often part of the problem. This legislation requires all public and private facilities to report psychiatric inpatient and crisis stabilization beds at least once daily.
  • WA SB 5175 (Telehealth). Nationwide, there is an acute shortage of mental health professionals. Telehealth can make mental health expertise more available to underserved communities using readily available technology. However, challenges in reimbursement have resulted in underuse of this valuable resource. This legislation defines telemedicine as a reimbursable service for the purposes of diagnosis, consultation or treatment.