NAMI Honors Key Members of Congress for Landmark Parity Legislation

Alma Powell Hosts NAMI HelpLine Gala

Feb 25 1997

Washington D.C. - Today, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) honored six members of Congress who were instrumental in passing legislation that moved the country closer to full health insurance parity for severe mental illnesses, which are now known to be physical brain disorders.

Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN), authors of this legislative milestone known as the Domenici-Wellstone amendment, were honored for their vision and determination to ending insurance discrimination against people with serious brain disorders, such as schizophrenia, manic-depressive illness (bipolar disorder), major depression, and anxiety disorders. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Representative John Kasich (R-OH), Representative Bill McCollum (D-FL), and Representative Louis Stokes (D-OH) were each recognized for their leadership during the parity debate of the 104th Congress.

Mistress of Ceremonies Alma Powell and ABC News Correspondent Cokie Roberts presented the awards at NAMI's HelpLine Benefit held at the Shakespeare Folger Library in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Powell applauded the law-makers for their integrity and perseverance. "These individuals put partisan politics aside to enact legislation that marks the beginning of the end of discrimination against our fellow citizens who have mental illness." Mrs. Powell's own struggle with major depression became known publicly when her husband General Colin Powell announced his decision not to run for President during the last campaign.

Long an advocate of volunteerism, Mrs. Powell praised the NAMI HelpLine. "Each caller receives help and hope. Hope for support, hope for the future, hope that only an all volunteer army of people who have been there can bring." NAMI HelpLine volunteers provide emotional support, information on treatment options, and referrals to community organizations to more than 60,000 persons with serious mental illness and their families each year.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, and anxiety disorders. Based in Arlington, Virginia, NAMI's membership includes more than 140,000 people with brain disorders and their families, and 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for nondiscriminatory and equitable federal and state policies; research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illnesses.