Mental Health America's 2010 Annual Conference kicked off today. One of highlights was the Advocacy Training session, which gives advocates key messages for Thursday's Capitol Hill Day, when attendees visit their federal legislators.
Advocacy Training attendees also heard from Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. Kareem said the Obama Administration has and will ensure the mental health community has a seat at the table and that its voice is heard. He also said that the administration wants to see a seclusion and restraint legislation passed. The administration will also be holding a number of events surrounding the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilties Act.
Dr. David Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America, presented a Legendary Leadership Award to Ken Libertoff, who is retiring as executive director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health. A recent newspaper article noted that “every major mental health bill in Vermont since the early 1980s has Libertoff's fingerprints on it,” including the 1997 law that mandated parity in health insurance plans in Vermont between mental health care and physical health care services. It is still considered a model for the rest of the country. Ken also played a major role in the crafting of the federal mental health parity law.
Kirsten Beronio and Julio Abreu briefed attendees on key issues, including the need to extend an increase in Medicaid funding through the middle of next year. Steve McCaffrey of the Regional Policy Council reminded attendees of the importance of relationships.