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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 9 - 15, 2002


Advocates reflect 
on need for mental 
illness awareness

Express Staff Writer

This week, Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, is dedicated to every one in five Americans who, statistically, suffer from mental illness.

The Blaine County Commission Monday signed a proclamation declaring this week Mental Illness Awareness Week in Blaine County. The goal is to enhance public awareness of mental illness and to promote greater understanding for those who suffer from it.

The Blaine County Commission declared Monday that this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Wood River Valley-NAMI President Tom Hanson, left, and Hailey Police Chief Brian McNary joined County Commissioners Mary Ann Mix, Sarah Michael and Dennis Wright for the proclamation’s signing. Last week, McNary received Wood River Valley-NAMI’s Law Enforcement Advocate of the Year award. Courtesy photo

"Scientific progress has also helped to alleviate the stigma associated with mental illness, as more and more Americans learn about its origins and effects," according to the proclamation. "Nevertheless, because millions of Americans suffer from some kind of mental disorder, we pause this week to reflect on this major public health problem and to renew our commitment to better mental health."

As part of the week-long awareness campaign, the Wood River Valley chapter of National Alliance for Mental Illness will host a candle light vigil Thursday evening in memory of suicide victims. It will be at 7 p.m. on the steps of the Old County Courthouse in Hailey and The Rev. John Moreland will deliver an invocation.

Wood River Valley-NAMI President Tom Hanson said fighting mental illness is really about fighting incorrect social perceptions and trying to eliminate the stigma surrounding severe mental illness. The stigma is something he said is still prevalent in state and federal budgets.

"If there’s one thing we want to say right now, it’s that we need the support of the community, the county and the state, to reverse the cuts that are taking place."

According to NAMI, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s budget was cut significantly last year. The cuts resulted in reduced medical coverage, personnel layoffs, reduced child care payments, reduced hospital reimbursement, cancelled facility maintenance and implementation of a preferred drug list that uses generic substitutes.

"We must vote for the legislators who will ensure that the limited public dollars are used in the most effective way to protect access to the newest and most effective treatments for illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and severe anxiety disorders," NAMI stated in a press release.

Hanson said 30 of 50 states regulate mental illness equally, requiring parody insurance coverage for the mentally ill.

Tewa Evans, who founded the Wood River Valley NAMI chapter, pointed out that Idaho ranks fifth in the nation for suicides, adding that Blaine County leads Idaho in per-capita suicides.

"This goes hand in hand for mental health services," she said. "We are 49th in the nation for mental health services. It would behoove all of the people to call their legislators and pressure them to get our Medicaid budget reinstated."

Despite the fact that mental disorders are diagnosable and treatable, there is a great disparity between the need for mental health services and access or availability to services, according to NAMI.

Less than 25 percent of the 19 million U.S. adults suffering from depression receive treatment.

The candlelight vigil in Hailey Thursday will help to bring awareness to the "tragedy of untreated brain disorders," Evans said.

"There’s a stigma about it. It isn’t treated like a biological illness, but it is," she said.



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