National Alliance on Mental Illness
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For Immediate Release, June 16, 2000
San Diego, CA - As the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) began its 21st annual convention yesterday, attention focused for more than a moment on a speech by Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) on national disability policy, delivered more than three thousand miles away, in Portland, Maine.
"Governor Bush has recognized a crucial issue," declared NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "The bottom-line is that America's mental health care system today is in crisis. Reforms are needed now."
"His proposals make a positive contribution to a bipartisan, national dialogue that is emerging in 2000 about treatment and support for people with severe mental illnesses," she said. "We also have seen major initiatives proposed in recent weeks by Vice President Al Gore and key Members of Congress, such as Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Candidates at every level of government should consider them carefully."
NAMI's convention includes discussion of a range of reforms. In the Portland speech, Bush supported the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by his father, President Bush in 1990, but said "banning discrimination is just the beginning…Barriers remain. There are steps we can and should take to remove these barriers." He identified three areas for action:
Bush proposed several initiatives especially relevant to NAMI members, including:
Bush also pledged to make the voting process easier for seniors and people with disabilities-a statement of potential importance in Maine, where a state referendum is on the ballot this year to remove a prohibition of the right to vote for people with mental illnesses who are under guardianship orders. The New Jersey Supreme Court also recently overruled a challenge to the voting rights of patients committed involuntarily in a state psychiatric hospital. NAMI is the sponsor of a non-partisan national voter registration and education campaign aimed specifically at people with severe mental illnesses.