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  • A box to help reduce stigmatization

    Oct 9,2015

    aileen g press conference

    Elise Gold, JFS Orange; Nadia Allen, Mental Health Association in Orange County; Nolly Climes, Rehabilitation Support Services; Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther; Darcie Miller, Commissioner of Mental Health and Social Services for Orange County; Peggy Spagnola, MHA Orange and NAMI; Glenn Liebman, Mental Health Association in New York State

    If you’ve ever heard Assemblymember Aileen Gunther talk, you know that she is passionate about changing the lives of people with mental illness. She was brilliantly placed in the role of chairperson on the Committee for Mental Health in the NYS Assembly. Recently, I was honored to attend a press conference in which Aileen delivered a message. The intention behind the meeting was to increase awareness and motivate action about a certain bill. This bill, related to ending stigma around mental illness, that NYS’s Senate and Assembly passed, is going before Governor Andrew Cuomo. Though Aileen’s zeal may not come across in my words, I’d like to share some notes of interest:

    • One in five people are impacted directly by mental illness each year
    • Everyone is impacted; we all know people in our families and community with mental illness
    • Mental illness is treatable. Treatment leads to recovery
    • People with mental illnesses often isolate
    • Due to the stigma that accompanies mental illness, people are reluctant to seek treatment or services.

    The bill we are speaking of is a “Mental Health Tax Check-Off”. I imagine that you are familiar with the menu of boxes that can be checked on state tax returns. This is the spot that taxpayers can choose to support Alzheimer’s research, breast cancer awareness, fish and wildlife management, the US Olympic Committee and other efforts. Having the option of a check off a “mental health box” would make it possible for funds to be allocated by the State Office of Mental Health. The resources would provide grants to organizations dedicated to eliminating the stigma.

    From Assemblymember Gunther, we heard, “the goal of this legislation is to shine some light in the dark places and begin to talk about and treatment mental illness honestly and openly like any other illness because it is like any other illness.”

    At JFS Orange, our mission is to “empower all people facing challenging times to live with dignity, hope and strength”. Part of the foundation of what we do comes from a Jewish value of “Tikkun Olam”, which can be interpreted as “making the world a better place”. I encourage you to stand with me and call the governor; he has the choice to approve or veto the bill. Thank you for doing your part and thanks to Aileen for fiercely advocating, educating and spreading the word. Together, let us work towards the de-stigmatization of mental illness.