Here’s the NAMI Advocacy Update I received January 14, 2015. Go to NAMI.org, become a member, subscribe to your choice of informative emails, and you, too, can receive content like what I quote here. Follow @NAMIPolicyWonk and @DarcyGrutt on Twitter to keep up to date on mental health policy issues. Thank you!
ABLE Act Permits Tax-free Savings Accounts for Some on SSI
The Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE Act, passed Congress and was signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 19. This new law allows some families and individuals to establish tax-free savings accounts for the qualified expenses of people with blindness, physical or mental disabilities without the fear of losing government benefits.
In the final stages of the legislative process a restriction was included on ABLE accounts: only people whose onset of disability occurred before age 26 will be eligible. This means that many adults living with serious mental illness will not qualify for these accounts. It is important to note that the age of 26 is not related to the onset of illness, but rather the point at which the Social Security Administration (SSA) deemed an individual to be so disabled that they became eligible for benefits under SSI. For many adults with serious mental illness this is long after their initial diagnosis.
Affordable Rental Housing Receives Huge Federal Investment
On December 11, the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ordered the mortgage companies to begin turning over hundreds of millions of dollars to a pair of affordable housing trust funds. These funds are designed to spur the development of affordable rental housing targeted to extremely low-income households, including single adults living with Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability (SSDI).
Why is this important to NAMI? The rental housing that will be financed by the National Housing Trust Fund must be targeted to households at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI). Single adults living with serious mental illness dominate this population – adults on SSI are on average at 18 percent of AMI. This investment for extremely low-income households is the largest federal investment in decades for affordable rental housing.
Tell Your Senators To Support Suicide Prevention For Our Nation’s Military and Veterans
In one of the first actions in the new Congress, the House passed HR 203,The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act. This legislation requires annual assessment of mental health care and suicide prevention programs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and implements a pilot loan forgiveness program for psychiatrists that agree to serve in the VA. The bill passed unanimously – demonstrating the strong bipartisan support for addressing gaps in mental health and suicide prevention programs at the VA.
NAMI strongly supports the Clay Hunt SAV Act.
We are asking you to keep this momentum going by calling your Senators today . Tell them how important this bill is to the mental health care system for our country’s military and veterans.
CIT on Capitol Hill
Sergeant A.D. Paul with the Plano, Texas Police Department testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights about how Plano’s CIT program trains officers and partners with the community. Sergeant Paul is helping to lead Texas’ efforts to expand crisis intervention teams (CIT), the program that brings together NAMI Affiliates, police and mental health providers to improve the way that communities respond to mental health crisis situations.
Bright Spot: NAMI New York State
The advocacy voice of NAMI New York State was heard loud and clear in Albany when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed The Prisoners Mental Health Discharge and Planning Bill (S7818/ A10071) into law on Dec. 29, 2014. The New York law will help guide people living with a mental illness who are in prison towards recovery and successful outcomes upon their discharge and reintegration.
Read more about NAMI New York’s victory.
Thank you for your advocacy!