The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) had their annual lobby day at the State House on Monday. Consumers and advocates from across the state came to show their support for mental health services that are currently being offered in the state. Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director for NAMI, opened the event by sharing six recommendations for the state regarding mental health services. Budget cuts were a top priority at the lobby day, since so many mental health services are in jeopardy.
One of focus of the day was Emergency Service Providers (ESP). ESP is a program that offers around the clock services to individuals suffering from mental illnesses. Individuals are able to call, and a team of providers will respond in a timely manner, and offer critical services that the police or 911 operators might not be able to provide. ESP is designed to offer help to all individuals, regardless of whether they have private insurance, MassHealth, or no insurance.
Commissioner Leadholm stressed that both the Governor and Secretary realize that funding is needed in this area, and that it is critical that constituents make their voices be heard by their legislators. As a final note, the Commissioner stated that, “We must always remember the most important side of mental illness is the human side.” She asked everyone to keep that in mind while speaking with their legislators.
Many legislators were at the event, including Senator Jen Flanagan, who encouraged individuals to share their personal stories to their legislators to get their point across. Flanagan is one of the legislators who are working hard to get as many services as possible for individuals suffering from substance abuse issues and/or mental illnesses.
Representative David Sullivan vowed to continue to work for this issue in his years to come. He stated that mental illness programs always seem like an easy cut, which is why it is so important to advocate for mental illness. He concluded his remarks saying, “This is your house, so don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard!”
Consumers were encouraged by other mental health leaders to speak passionately to their legislators about mental health programs that are currently in jeopardy. Mental health services are expected to receive $621 million, a 3.6% decrease from last year, which is why this lobby day was so important.