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Presidential Election 2008

Needed: A White House Advocate for Families with Special-Needs Children

September 4, 2008

Arlington, VA
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) today released the following statement by executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick:

"Governor Sarah Palin extended a special message to 'the families of special-needs children all across this country' in her speech before the Republican National Convention this week, saying: 'I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.'

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) applauds this pledge and each party’s support for children living with disabilities, including intellectual disabilities and serious mental illnesses.

Senators John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all support families with children with special needs. Both party platforms endorse full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal special education law. What is indeed needed is forceful leadership—coming from a president and vice president inside the White House.

Mental health care is part of health care reform.

That means supporting families.

There also exists the unfulfilled vision of the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to transform a mental healthcare system that is "a system in shambles," especially for children.

This vision should be part of the election dialogue. Some of the first priorities for a new administration should include:

  • Early screening, evaluation and treatment of mental illnesses in children and adolescents. Today, it takes 8 to 10 years from the onset of symptoms until effective treatment and services are secured.
  • End the shameful practice in America in which families are forced to give up custody of  children to the state as their only option for getting mental health services they need.
  • Bring kids home. Reduce reliance on institutional care and the juvenile justice system for mental health services for children and adolescents.
  • End the achievement gap for students with mental illnesses. Focus on improving their academic achievement and graduation rates—which are the lowest of any disability group.

Mental illnesses don’t discriminate. They can strike at any time. They affect adults and children and Republicans and Democrats alike."

 

 

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