NAMI endorses Medicaid expansion initiative: Initiative hopes to bridge Medicaid ‘gap’

 The Idaho chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the state’s largest mental health nonprofit organization, has endorsed Proposition 2, Idaho’s Medicaid expansion ballot initiative which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

    “Medicaid expansion is an easy ‘yes’ vote,” NAMI Idaho President Michael Sandvig said in a press release.

    Sandvig said that based on data in a report by the Idaho Workgroup on Medicaid Redesign, commissioned by Gov. Butch Otter, the expansion will support over 14,000 jobs and generate $46 million per year in new revenue. He said it will save millions for the state general fund by relieving the costs of state-funded indigent care service, and bring more than $500 million in federal money to Idaho during its first year.

    The initiative would provide health care for 62,000 Idahoans who fall into the state’s health care coverage gap, according to Reclaim Idaho, the grassroots organization that turned in the 56,192 signatures—6 percent of registered voters—needed to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

    NAMI made its announcement of endorsement as National Suicide Prevention Week was beginning on Sept. 9.

    NAMI-Wood River Valley Executive Director Christina Cernansky said in the release that suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans ages 15-24, and for males up to age 44, Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates. Cernansky said that in 2016, Idaho had the eighth highest suicide rate, 57 percent higher than the national average.

    “Several studies have shown that making Medicaid accessible to more Idahoans can help reverse increasing suicide rates,” she said.

    NAMI Treasure Valley President Eric Cawley said that if these patients were Medicaid-eligible, Idaho would save an estimated $85.2 million over 10 years on behavioral health and $48.9 million on mental health services, for a total of $134.1 million.