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May 15, 2008

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Lynda Appell  Mental Health Advocate

My work as Disability Advocate protecting Protecting Important US Legislation add to favorites
Basics This is specifically on
my work as a Disability Advocate. I am working with mental health clients. They wrote very effective letters to Republican Senator Arlen Spector PA. He was chosen because the clients live in Phila,PA. The other senator Democrat Robert Casey wasn't written to since we presumed being a Democrat he'd be for HR 5613. The letters told of how their intensive case managers (ICMs) are crucial.
Introduction: Working with mental health consumers to help stop budget cuts to ICM services.

General Abstract: Being a co facilitator with the director of a local disability rehab program I helped facilitate some mental health consumers to write letters to their local congress person. The correspondence were two fold. They wrote how their intensive case managers's services were definitely needed. Plus they strongly suggested cutting programs that let ICMs be of help would be rather harmful to their recovery, support.

Please note HR Bill 5613 deal with other major issues that effect people on Medicaid. Every one of them are equally important. However I want my report to be specific. I am only dealing with the section that deals with intensive case management. I want my writing to be a lot on a specific part of the bill as opposed to a little on the entire bill.

Definitions: Mental Health Consumer. A phrase coined by National Alliance for the Mentally Ill www.nami.org NAMI is the largest family and consumer run organization in the US. It technically means someone who consumes mental health services be it voluntary or involuntary. People in the mental health system who are critical of it, call themselves Psychiatric Survivors. A good site to check out for more info is www.mindfreedom.org. They are anti forced treatment, drugging. Intensive Case Manager. An ICM is a man or woman, usually an MSW (Master of Social Work) who helps her or his mental health consumer client navigate the mental health system. They help his or her client obtain the services they need too.

John Dingell (D-MI) and Timothy Murphy (R-PA) introduced this bill to delay the start of seven Medicaid regulations that would drastically reduce coverage of services and supports needed for many people with mental illnesses.

The "Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act of 2008" (H.R. 5613), would prolong until April 1, 2009, the imposing of the regulatory changes. The bill will be marked up on Wednesday, April 9, by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

My personal note. I certainly hope April 1st wasn't chosen because its April Fool's Day. Well most likely its merely a coincidence. At least I hope that's what it was.


For the record there are seven specific concerns. The reductions include rehab services, school based transportation, outreach.

Our fearless leader George W Bush's rationale is he's balancing the budget. Yes he is balanicing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. I strongly suspect he's targeting the most needy because he figures they won't fight back. Well they are fighting back. That is what these letters to local congressmen is all about.

Meanwhile he's spending billions on a war that seems to be going on indefinitely. No matter what one's opinion of the Iraq war is, the fact is because of the fighting there is much less money for domestic social needs. Too bad our president wants to cut the deficit by cutting social spending for the most needy.

It isn't only the organization where I work. The agency is a part of a national wide coalition. We are planning to network with our fellow rehab services throughout the US to join us in implementing fair treatment to people with disabilities, especially psychiatric.

What was done: aka Methodology.

The clients-consumers were urged to write personal correpondences on how their intensive case managers were helping them. Plus they wrote on how much they were needed. The letters were very specific and quite personable. In everyone's writings it was clearly shown how ICMs helped their clients gain the services and support they needed in the community. Perhaps one of the most important reasons for the ICM was they were the direct link between the client and the MH system.

ICMs deal with the nitty-gritty of everyday life for many mental health consumers. They help them navigate how to find housing, gain employment, deal with getting meds or whatever service is needed.

Conclusion. The letters were written. They were edited only for clarity. The women and men who wrote them signed the letters. The next step is networking with other mental health consumers for more impact.

Personal Note. I am quite proud of the clients involved and my personal involvement too. Bush may say he's saving money. However ICMs hel prevent people from going to a psych hospital or psych ward by dealing with people BEFORE they reach a crisis. In other words an ICM prevents hospitalization by eliminating the need to be hospitalized. You don't need to be an economic expert to know being in a hospital for practically any reason is extremely expensive even with coverage. Reducing ICM services is penny wise and pound foolish. I think the letters that were written and sent is a very wise decision.

Outcome: The letters from the agency were mailed and the next step is networking with other groups of the same or quite similar nature. I am very proud of everybody involved.

The letters were mailed to a PA senator Arlen Spector R. We are waiting for his response. The reason it was not sent to Robert Casey D is because we presume he's for the bill. Being that he's a Democrat.

The bill passed the US House of Represenatives by a resounding vote. The danger, problem in the Senate is a proposed Republican filibuster. A filibuster basically means the bill will be talked to exhaustion. There is a very real danger, the bill will not be voted.


Immediately below in the next paragraph is the date and exact voting results of the entire House of Represenatives.

April 23, the whole House of Representatives passed legislation (HR 5613) that would forstall seven newly proposed Medicaid regulations by the Bush presidency. See top of page for more details. The bill passed by a vote of 349-62 – a margin definitely more than adequate to defeat a presidential veto. Source:The National Council for Community Behavorial Health www.thenationalcouncil.org.


According to the director of the rehab program if the house bill comes to the Senate floor the bill will pass. However some members of the Republican senators are organizing to block the bill. That is the reason we sent the letters to Senator Arlen Specter R. We are hoping being a somewhat progressive Republican he can help prevent filibuster.

When I get more info I will let people know what that is.

Partial List of National US Disability and Progressive Groups for HR5613

www.care2.com Specially the Campaign for Housing, Health Care etc.

Care2.com includes www.petitionsite.com, communities, networking and much more. Its one of the largest progressive sites on the Internet.

Families USA www.familiesusa.org The Voice for Health Care Consumers.

Mental Health America, formerly National Mental Health Assn.

National Alliance for the Mentally ILL NAMI

National Association of Community Health Centers

People on Wheels. www.peopleonwheels.org. A wheel chair advocacy and support organization.

www.retiredamericans.org

Many more groups too numerous to mention.

More relevant info may be found at http://disabilityinfo.ms11.net

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