Policy Issues

NAMI Dane County has a strong presence in the community advocating for policies that ensure people affected by mental illness have access to quality mental health care supports and services. We advocate on a variety of issues at the local, state, and national levels. Scroll down to learn more about these important policy priorities. 

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50% of all serious mental illness begins by age 14, 75% by age 24. Without early treatment, the consequences can be tragic. Fortunately, research shows that the earlier the treatment, the better the outcomes-and the lower the cost.

With this in mind, NAMI Dane County advocates for early identification and treatment by promoting First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs and bringing mental health education to schools. Investing in these initiatives change the trajectory of mental illness and help young people get their lives on track.


A person who is having a mental health crisis is often more likely to land in jail than in a hospital, many on minor, non-violent charges. When in jail, people with mental illness stay almost twice as long as others facing similar charges.

Jails and prisons are not designed to provide mental health treatment and most correctional officers are not trained to effectively deal with people with mental illnesses. With this in mind, NAMI Dane County advocates for more cost-effective measures that are shown to reduce arrests, jail days, hospital stays and total criminal justice expenditures. These measures include:

  1. Training police, corrections and other first responders on safely and effectively responding to people with mental illness through CIT.
  2. Diverting non-violent offenders with mental illness into treatment, such as a mental health jail court.
  3. Investing in mental health services that keep people out of jail in the first place, such as mobile crisis response teams.

Read NAMI Dane County's position statement on reducing the number of people with mental illnesses in the Dane County Jail.


Family members often serve as the caregiver of their loved one with mental illness, yet do not receive the support or training they need to better help their loved ones. This is often because of stigma, hard to navigate mental health care services, expensive out of pocket costs, and a narrow reading of health privacy laws.

NAMI Dane County advocates for peer-led education and support programs as an integrated part of mental health treatment. We actively partner with community organizations to offer family support and education programs, including NAMI Family-to-Family and NAMI Basics. We also encourage the county to finance development and implementation of these kinds of programs so they are readily accessible and an integrated part of treatment. 

PROTECT MEDICAID AND Mental Health Coverage

Congress showed strong bipartisan support of mental health care when it passed mental health reform in the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016. This was significant because 60 million children and adults are affected by mental illness, yet about 50% go without treatment.

Today's "health reform" in the American Health Care Act of 2017 is a move in the opposite direction. Congress should fix the health insurance marketplace, not ravage Medicaid and strip away mental health coverage.

How does Congress’ health care bill affect mental health?

  • The AHCA strips $800 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, forcing states to slash mental health services.
  • 24 million Americans will lose insurance for mental health care.

Allows states to:

  • Drop coverage of mental health and substance use (one of the essential health benefits) from insurance plans.
  • Charge people higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition, like depression or anxiety.
  • Create high-risk pools, which are another way of charging people with mental illness more money and providing less coverage.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) did a lot to protect people with mental illness by requiring health plans to cover mental health and substance use conditions - and at the same level as other health conditions.

It also stopped health plans from charging people more just because they had a mental health condition or dropping them from coverage or turning them down for renewal just because they used mental health services.

Congress should stabilize the health insurance market, not take us back to a time when health plans could cover mental health differently - or not at all.

NAMI Dane County's Ask

We ask that Congress protect Medicaid and mental health coverage by opposing any health reform legislation that caps or limits Medicaid, takes away protections for people with mental health conditions in health plans, or leaves fewer people with coverage for mental illness.

Wisconsin medicaid waiver application

Medicaid links nearly 10 million Americans to mental health services and supports. If Medicaid erodes, accessing mental health care will get even harder. One way states can make changes to traditional Medicaid requirements is through waivers - if approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Wisconsin applied for a Section 1115 Medicaid Waiver to revamp its existing Medicaid program in May 2017.

NAMI Dane County has concerns with the application because the majority of the waiver amendments are inconsistent with WI’s stated goals to expand the WI workforce, cut the number of uninsured, and improve health outcomes.

Additionally, many of the policies being proposed by Wisconsin are unprecedented. These include work requirements, drug testing, emergency department copays for any type of visit, and charging premiums for people under the poverty level.

Read more about these concerns in the BadgerCare Waiver Talking Points, created by the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families.