In an earlier article on the current mental health crisis in New Orleans, I discussed NAMI's "A Report on America's Heath Care System for Serious Mental Illness - Grading the States 2006". This report, a gigantic undertaking, is the first comprehensive state by state analysis of mental health care systems in 15 years. It scores every state on 39 specific criteria which result in an overall grade and grades in four sub-categories for each state. The national average grade is D. Five states received grades in the B range, eight received Fs and none received a grade in the A range. In the sub-categories the national grades are 1] infrastructure - D; 2] Information access - D; 3] services - D+; 4] recovery supports - C-. State by State the grades were:
Alabama - D; Alaska - D; Arizona - D+; Arkansas - D-; California - C; Colorado - U*; Connecticut - B; Delaware - C-; District of Columbia - C; Florida - C-; Georgia - D; Hawaii - C; Idaho - F; Illinois - F; Indiana - D-; Iowa - F; Kansas - F; Kentucky - F; Louisiana - D-; Maine - B-; Maryland - C+; Massachusetts - C-; Michigan - C+; Minnesota - C+; Mississippi - D; Missouri - C-; Montana - F; Nebraska - D; Nevada - D-; New Hampshire - D; New Jersey - C; New Mexico - C-; New York - U*; North Carolina - D+; North Dakota - F; Ohio - B; Oklahoma - D; Oregon - C+; Pennsylvania - D+; Rhode Island - C; South Carolina - B-; South Dakota - F; Tennessee - C-; Texas - C; Utah - D; Vermont - C-; Virginia - D; Washington - D; West Virginia- D; Wisconsin - B-; Wyoming - D. * A gradeof U indicates that the state was unresponsive. The grade distribution was A-0, B-5, C-17, D-19, F- 8 and U*-2.
NAMI has many other reports, activities and programs. Among them are "The Campaign for the Mind of America" which is a multi-year effort on many fronts to promote investment in recovery and prevent the abandonment of yet another generation of Americans with mental illnesses to neglect and hopelessness. It highlights the need for a comprehensive system to screen, evaluate, diagnose and treat mental illnesses at every stage of life. This Campaign has nine National Partners ranging from the American College of Emergency Physicians to The Society for Adolescent Medicine. There are 12 states involved in this Campaign. NAMI also has several formal programs including: for consumers; Peer-to-Peer, NAMI C.A.R.E. Mutual Support Program, Hearts & Minds, In Our Own Voice, For Families and Caregivers; Family-to-Family, Hearts & Minds, For the General Public; In our own Voice, For Providers;Provider Education.
What does NAMI do? NAMI members, leaders and friends work across all levels to meet a shared mission of support, education, research and advocacy for people living with mental illness through various activities, including: Public Education and Information Activities; Family and Consumer Peer Education and Support Activities; Advocacy on Behalf of People Living with Mental lllness and for the Health of our Communities; and Visible Public Events that Raise Funds and Awareness while Engaging the Public.
I first became aware of NAMI in the 1980s when Shirley Starr, one of the founders of NAMI, arrived at my office in Springfield, Illinois and proceeded to educate me about the plight of the families of the seriosly mentally ill, including schizophrenic, bi-polar and seriously depressed. It's hard to believe how far NAMI has come in only 20 years and how much more still needs to be done. Thank you Shirley, for all that you've done.