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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Senator Ted Kennedy: A Member of the NAMI Family

August 26, 2009

Statement of Michael J. Fitzpatrick
Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI mourns the passing of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a true champion for individuals and families affected by serious mental illness. This is a profound loss for the NAMI family.

We do not have to struggle to remember what Senator Kennedy accomplished in seeking to improve the lives of millions of Americans. The real challenge would be to try to recall what he didn’t do. His idealism moved the country. His pragmatism and ability to work with liberals and conservatives alike enacted legislation.

A year ago, along with his son Patrick, Senator Kennedy was a driving force in the enactment of the mental health insurance parity law. The parity law is one of the most significant victories of the past 10 years for people who live with mental illness. The full list is longer. It includes:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Family & Medical Leave Act
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), supporting state programs to provide health insurance to uninsured children in low-income families
  • Family Opportunity Act, providing states the option to allow low and middle-income families with special needs children to purchase health care through Medicaid
  • Recognition of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as a biomedical research institute and increased funding for research
  • Early Intervention, Treatment and Prevention Act, providing for a range of education and training and community-based prevention and diversion services
  • Civil Rights for Institutionalized Person Act (CRIPA)
  • Fair Housing Act expansion to include people with disabilities
  • "Ticket to work" provisions under Social Security disability programs
  • Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA),  including restrictions on insurance limitations for pre-existing conditions
  • Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act
  • "Wounded Warrior" act to improve access to mental health services for National Guard and Reserve forces

For more than three decades, Senator Kennedy has been a voice for universal health care coverage and reform.

His voice, perspective and wisdom will be greatly missed in the critical health care debate that is now before the nation.

Congress could do no greater honor than to pass meaningful health care reform this year—building on his legacy.

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