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President's New Freedom
Commission on Mental Health


Interim Report to the President


Letter to the President

Date: October 29, 2002

Dear Mr. President:

When you launched our Commission on April 29, 2002, you observed, "America's citizens with mental illness deserve our respect, and they deserve excellent care." We could not agree more. There are a range of effective treatments for people with mental illness, according to the landmark 1999 report, Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. It is our firm conviction that if these effective treatments were more efficiently delivered through our mental health services system, your vision of excellent care would become a reality across America. Millions of Americans would be more successful in school, at work, and in their communities. They could contribute more fully to the vibrancy of American life.

Our review for this interim report leads us to the united belief that America's mental health service delivery system is in shambles. We have found that the system needs dramatic reform because it is incapable of efficiently delivering and financing effective treatments-such as medications, psychotherapies, and other services-that have taken decades to develop. Responsibility for these services is scattered among agencies, programs, and levels of government. There are so many programs operating under such different rules that it is often impossible for families and consumers to find the care that they urgently need. The efforts of countless skilled and caring professionals are frustrated by the system's fragmentation. As a result, too many Americans suffer needless disability, and millions of dollars are spent unproductively in a dysfunctional service system that cannot deliver the treatments that work so well.

A fragmented services system is one of several systemic barriers impeding the delivery of effective mental health care. Our interim report describes other problems, including our failure to serve those with the most serious illnesses, our failure to intervene early in childhood, and our Nation's failure to recognize mental health care as a national priority. We are optimistic that our Commission, in its final report, can offer you many solutions for improving the serious problems we have uncovered. In this interim report we identify several stellar community-based models-models that illuminate how services can be innovatively and effectively delivered in spite of these overwhelming barriers. We are awestruck at what can be learned from the people who pioneered these programs, from educators in Dallas all the way to Air Force Generals. Their inspiring example can lead the Nation in mental health system reform.


Michael F. Hogan, Ph.D.
Chairman, President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health


H. Stanley Eichenauer
Deputy Executive Director
New Freedom Commission on Mental
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 13C-26
Rockville, Maryland 20857
Phone: (301) 443-1545



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