PUBLIC POLICY involves local, state and national legislative advocacy. It is the intent of this web site to note relevant current bills and provide an overview for the reader. The following websites are valuable as references in that they will explore the bills in a more comprehensive manner, with more detail at times than will be provided here.

Urge California to Appy for an IMD Exclusion

   An IMD is an Institute for Mental Disease facility that can offer more than 16 acute inpatient hospital beds. The federal IMD exclusion has barred the use of Medicaid payments for these facilities.

Historically, the exclusion was considered a preventive measure against the “warehousing” of individuals with mental illness. In the light of the housing crisis and the recent instances of mass shooting violence, there are efforts being put forth to have waivers given to states to address society’s needs for an increase of treatment interventions. Waivers will be awarded where robust community-based treatment services are offered as well.

The absence of appropriate mental health treatments offered within a full range of service options has brought us to the point where jails and prisons have become the primary dumping ground for our family members. So we join with NAMI California and other NAMI affiliates across the state in advocating for application for the waiver.

Please address your concerns regarding this to Jennifer Kent, Director, Department of Health Care Services, PO Box 997413, MS 0000, Sacramento, Ca 95899-7413 or jennifer.kent@dhcs.

SARDAA – Schizophrenia and Related Disorders of America

      Current advocacy efforts for the hoped-for reclassification of Schizophrenia as a neurological disorder are being spearheaded by the nonprofit Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), whose website is We recommend you take a look at the site along with the comprehensive, well researched letter and join the advocacy by sending on the letter or your own.

 The letter provides an excellent overview of the disorder, describing the research evidence as “overwhelmingly … indicating that the disease is a brain- based highly heritable … neurodevelopmental disorder. … Prevailing hypotheses … include dysregulation of the dopamine, glutamate and GABA neurotransmitter systems. Synaptic pruning—a critical process that refines neural circuits … is perturbed, in particular during adolescence … significant enough to show decreased grey matter volume in structural MRI studies of schizophrenia.”

This disorder shares features with the two neurologically based disorders of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (brain/cognitive deterioration along with social/sensory/motor/affective disturbances, brain structural and functional changes, clinical rather than lab-based diagnosis, genetic basis, treatment via meds and research approaches). The main difference is the paucity of timely and appropriate care for the individual with schizophrenia, with “striking rates of patients being untreated, homeless and incarcerated … associated with much suffering, debilitation and public health cost.”

 So if you’d like to encourage a more humane and studied approach to mental illness that fully realizes that we are dealing with a brain/neurological disorder, we recommend that you take a look at the SARDAA website and do some advocacy towards that end.

Help Build the Mental Health Movement

By Laura Greenstein

Together, we are a movement. Our movement explains what it really means to experience mental illness. Our movement shows people experiencing mental illness that they are not alone and there is hope. While it’s a slow process, our movement is becoming louder and more persistent every time a celebrity speaks out, an article is published or an individual shares their personal story. Our movement is growing, strengthening and becoming more visible.

We need to keep this momentum going. The harder we work, the more people will learn, understand and empathize. The societal perception of mental illness won’t change if we don’t work to change it. So, here are just a few ways we can continue to push our cause forward:

With Words

Start conversations. To reduce mental illness-related stigma, we need to feel comfortable having conversations about it. The more we talk about mental health conditions, the more normalized it becomes. Starting the conversation is the first step.

Correct stigmatizing language. Language won’t evolve unless people realize their words are hurtful. Calling someone “insane” or “crazy,” defining a person by their condition or using mental health adjectives are all harmful habits that perpetuate stigma. If you hear someone using stigmatizing language, let them know.

Share your story. Sharing mental health struggles helps spread the word that mental illness is real. And sharing mental health recovery stories helps spread the word that if you live with a mental illness, you can get better.


Become an author. One of the best ways to spread awareness is through writing. Articles circulate all over social media and the Internet. They can be seen by thousands, even millions, of people. If you have something to say or a piece of advice, don’t hesitate to share your wisdom with the world-wide web.

With Actions

Represent the cause. There are many ways to show that mental health is an important cause to you, but it’s even more powerful to make that dedication visible. Consider wearing the NAMI x Lokai bracelet, a bracelet that represents the highs and lows of mental health. Lokai created this piece to let everyone know: “We’re in this together, so don’t walk through your toughest day alone.” If you catch someone eyeing your bracelet, tell them what it stands for.

Educate. Teach people about mental illness by becoming a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter or teaching NAMI Ending the Silence to a group of young people. Be the one who teaches someone struggling that what they’re going through isn’t their fault and how they can get help.

Advocate. With the current mental health system, not everyone is getting the services and treatment they need. When you see an opportunity to influence your local government about mental health legislation, call, email or tweet at them to let them know the importance of mental health care.

Volunteer. There are so many ways to get involved—volunteer for an information line or crisis line, walk or volunteer at your local NAMIWalk, join a NAMI on Campus club—it’s up to you how you can support the movement.

Your effort to end stigma, to advocate for mental health reform, and to build better lives for those affected by mental illness are the reasons why our movement is growing stronger every day. We appreciate your support and everything you do to make our cause visible.

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