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We Can Still Achieve The Promise Of Recovery: The President's New Freedom Commission On Mental Health

This summer marks the 13th anniversary of the final report to the White House, authored by the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. For those unfamiliar with the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, it was part of The New Freedom Initiative (NFI).
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American flag blowing in the wind
American flag blowing in the wind

This summer marks the 13th anniversary of the final report to the White House, authored by the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. For those unfamiliar with the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, it was part of The New Freedom Initiative (NFI). A national effort launched by President George W. Bush to advance civil rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Title II and Olmstead v. L.C. The goals of the NFI were to reduce pervasive barriers to community living and enhance access to education, employment, housing and technical assistance.

In April 2002, as part of the NFI, President Bush issued an Executive Order which created the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Declaring, "Our country must make a commitment to excellence in mental health care for all Americans" the presidential commission was assembled. The mission, "To study the mental health service delivery system, and to make recommendations that would enable adults with serious mental illnesses and children with serious emotional disturbances to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities."

The Commission membership included fifteen members appointed by the president and seven ex-officio members, to be appointed by secretaries of related federal agencies. After an extensive research review, expert testimony, public input and evaluation on how to improve and reform mental health care in America, the commission found nothing short of transformation of America's mental health system would provide a necessary fix. As stated by Commission Chair Michael F. Hogan Ph. D, "The commission finds that recovery from mental illness is now a real possibility." On July, 22, 2003, the Final Report to the White House was submitted, which detailed a transformational roadmap to achieve the promise of excellence in mental health care for all Americans. (See also, Michael F. Hogan's testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, 2013.)

As America waits for congress to act on pending national mental health legislation, as a former member of the commission and mental health court Judge - I ask, "Will our nation step up and deliver on the promise of excellence in community based mental health care in America to advance recovery and equality - it is not too late.