A report by the (JS General Accounting Office (GAO) raises serious questions regarding the 1985 reorganization of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that established biomédical research of serious mental illnesses as the Institute's highest priority.
According to the GAO report, which was prompted by findings of the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), "As of January 1989, the national prevention goals, priorities, policies, and programs required by the Public Health Services Act had not been established." Additionally, the Office of the Deputy Director for Prevention and Special Studies - the NIMH unit designated to implement prevention goals - does not have the resources or authority to carry out mandated prevention policies.
The 1985 reorganization plan abolished the Division of Prevention and Special Mental Health Programs in NIMH and committed increased resources toward researching biomedical aspects of schizophrenia and the affective disorders. Although organizations have applauded this commitment, concern is expressed regarding the lack of progress in prevention research, particularly in st re s s -related disorders. Mental illness, including emotional distress and behavior disorders, affects 15% to 20% of the nation's population, or between 35 and 46 million people, according to the Public Health Service.
For more information, contact Gina White, NMHA media relations, or Rick Birkel, Director, NMHA Office of Prevention; 703-684-7722.