President Launches New Freedom Commission on Mental Health
"Our country must make a commitment: Americans with mental
illness deserve our understanding and they deserve excellent care,"
said President George W. Bush in announcing the establishment this
spring of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental
The Commission will identify the needs of people with mental illness
and the barriers to care, investigate community-based care models
that have shown success in coordinating and providing mental health
services, and formulate policy options to integrate effective treatments
and improve service coordination. The Commission is charged with
producing an interim report within 6 months of the President's
April 29 Executive Order, followed by a final report at a later
date to be determined by the Commission chair in consultation with
Currently, numerous Federal, state, and local government entities
oversee mental health programs, policy, funding, and the diverse
network of public and private providers. The Bush Administration
wants to encourage more efficient organization and coordination
to ensure effective treatment for those in need.
SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W., said, "We
welcome the opportunity the Commission offers to take a fresh look
at ways to enable adults with serious mental illness and children
with serious emotional disturbances to live, work, learn, and participate
fully in their communities. As the Federal Government's lead
Agency for administering mental health and substance abuse services,
SAMHSA will clearly have a role in carrying out the Commission's
The Commission comprises a maximum of 15 members appointed by
the President, including providers, payers, administrators, and
consumers of mental health services and their families. The Commission
also includes a maximum of seven ex officio members, four of whom
will be designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
and the remaining three of whom will be designated—one each—by
the Secretaries of the Departments of Labor, Education, and Veterans
"SAMHSA will clearly have a role in carrying out the Commission's recommendations."
Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
President Bush has appointed Michael F. Hogan, Ph.D., as Commission
chair. Dr. Hogan will also continue in his position as director
of the Ohio Department of Mental Health, where he has served since
1991. In this capacity, he implemented comprehensive legislative
reform, which devolved mental health care to the community level,
reforming forensic services to improve quality and public safety,
and developing new approaches to children's services to reduce
reliance on out-of-home care.
Claire Heffernan has been selected as executive director, and
Stanley Eichenauer serves as deputy executive director.
The Commission's office has already started planning for
regional meetings throughout the country to gather information for
formulating the report.
In announcing the formation of the Commission, President Bush
said, "Millions of Americans are impaired at work, at school,
or at home by episodes of mental illness. Remarkable treatments
exist, and that's good. Yet many people—too many people—remain
He identified three major obstacles that interfere with care:
the stigma surrounding mental illness "caused by a history of misunderstanding,
fear, and embarrassment"; a fragmented mental health service delivery
system; and "unfair treatment limitations placed on mental health
in insurance coverage."
Americans with mental illness, he said, "deserve a health
care system that treats their illness with the same urgency as a
physical illness." He said that the Commission is charged
with making "concrete recommendations for immediate improvements"
that "must be implemented by the Federal Government, the state
government, local agencies, as well as public and private health
For more information on the President's New Freedom Commission
on Mental Health, visit www.mentalhealth
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