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President's Commission on Mental Health Remarks on Receiving the Commission's Final Report.

April 27, 1978

Rosalynn mentioned that last February, when we established the Commission, that I didn't authorize much time nor money. She pointed out in February how difficult it would be to bring together the widely and disparate groups who have always been interested in mental illness of all kinds and get a report completed in this short a period of not much more than a year. I told her that all she had to worry about was getting a mental health report finished by April, that I would have a comprehensive energy plan finished by October last year. [Laughter]

So, I launched my effort by calling it the moral equivalent of war. The other night Rosalynn said that if the President and the Congress in the Pacific war in the 1940's had been as effective as the Congress and I have on the energy plan, that the people in Plains would all be speaking Japanese. [Laughter]

I have seen my wife and dedicated professionals and volunteers work on improving the mental health status in Georgia while I was Governor. And I knew that in the choice of this Commission, who stand behind me on the stage, that we had put together a group with a wide range of credentials, experience, dedication, knowledge, and commitment that would be unexcelled. They were each chosen very carefully. They've worked harmoniously together.

About one out of seven Americans need mental treatment of some kind at any particular moment. This affliction in all its varied forms touches almost every family in the United States. The effort to bring treatment to those who lack it because of discrimination, because of inattention on the part of public officials, because of an inadequate allotment of medical care from one community to another, because of an absence of close cooperation between the Federal, State, and local governments, between government and the private sector of our Nation, between those who deal in physical health and the inseparable questions of mental health, have caused this unnecessary suffering.

Twenty-five years ago we spent about $1.7 billion on mental health in this country. Now we spend ten times this much, about $17 billion, about half of which is public funds. I've looked through this report, and Rosalynn has explained to me the major thrust of it. It is a superb analysis of the problems that we still have in the adequate delivery of mental health care to the people of our country.

There is not a heavy emphasis on increased budget allotments nor initiation of new programs, but there's an emphasis on how we can coordinate delivery of existing programs better with some modest increase in the budget which I intend to support and recommend to the Congress next year.

In this allotment of additional funds, which, as I say, is very modest, we will emphasize the prevention of mental illness, the care for those who chronically suffer from mental illness, the training of additional personnel who are qualified to treat those who suffer from this illness, the better distribution of their services around the country and to communities which are not presently served, and additional research to determine with a minimum expenditure of American finances how we can better deal with this severe problem that our Nation still experiences.

This will not be a costly program, but it will be a program that can save enormous amounts of public funds, because to care for a person who is suffering from mental illness unnecessarily is an extremely expensive proposition, costing tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes each year, for a normal lifespan of 50 or 60 years, for a mentally afflicted person. So, it's an excellent investment in the future.

I'm very grateful for what my wife has done, Tom Bryant, and the members of the Commission. I've never seen a group work with more dedication and produce a better product. And I and Joe Califano, Pat Harris, and the Members of the Congress who are here—Senator Kennedy is here representing the Senate, Paul Rogers is here representing the House—we are all dedicated to carrying out the recommendations of this report. I think it will have a profound beneficial effect on our country in years to come.

And as President I'm deeply indebted to this group and the 450 other people who worked on this report for what they have contributed to our own ability to serve the American people better. Rosalynn and all of you, thank you very much for what you've done.

Note: The ceremony began at 2 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Prior to his remarks, the President received the report from Mrs. Carter, Honorary Chairperson of the Commission. Dr. Thomas E. Bryant is Chairman of the Commission.

The report is entitled "Report to the President From the President's Commission on Mental Health, 1978" (Government Printing Office, 94 pages plus appendices).

Jimmy Carter, President's Commission on Mental Health Remarks on Receiving the Commission's Final Report. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245425

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