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.


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.