January 13, 2009
Washington, D.C.—The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is honored this week by President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of NAMI Montana executive director, Matt Kuntz, to accompany him on his whistle stop tour between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. en route to Obama’s inauguration.
Kuntz is one of 18 people being recognized as everyday Americans who have made "extraordinary contributions" to national life. He is a former attorney and West Point Army officer who, after meeting with then-candidate Obama in August 2008, became NAMI Montana’s executive director.
Kuntz’s stepbrother, Chris Dana, returned home from Iraq, and while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), died from suicide. Kuntz subsequently led the effort in Montana that resulted in a program to check members of the state National Guard for signs of PTSD every six months for the first two years after return from combat, and then once a year thereafter.
The National Guard Bureau recognized the Montana National Guard program as leading the country. After meeting with Kuntz and other veterans, Obama pledged to expand the program nationwide.
"Matt is a highly-regarded advocate," said NAMI national executive director, Michael J. Fitzpatrick. "This is a great honor for him and his family, NAMI Montana, and all of NAMI’s extended family."
"It also is a clear signal that the President-elect is aware and interested in helping individuals and families who live with mental illnesses," Fitzpatrick said.
During the presidential campaign, Obama answered in detail 24 questions that NAMI submitted to all candidates.
"I’m really touched and honored that President-elect Obama remembered our efforts to care for our injured service members and their families," said Kuntz. "This recognition is a major testament to all of the Montanans that demanded better care for our heroes and to our governor and the National Guard leadership that have carried out that mandate."
"We are extremely proud that Matt has been selected to be a part of the President-elect’s inauguration events and ceremony," said NAMI Montana’s president, Dr. Gary Mihelish. "Matt's passion, dedication and tenacity to advocate for veterans’ suffering from PTSD and individuals suffering from severe mental illnesses has been demonstrated throughout the state of Montana the last two years. We are extremely proud that his efforts have now been recognized at the national level."
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