Saturday, October 25, 2014

Another great reason to vote -- the future of mental health care

Voting on Nov. 4 is important for so many reasons. For us Democrats, it's an opportunity to get our message out and to elect progressives to our Republican-dominated legislature which, frankly, often appears as if it's lost its ever-lovin' mind. Right now, Democrats hold 14 of the 90 seats in this august body. We need new voices, ones that represent women, ethnic minorities, the LGBT community and a younger demographic. We have Democrats running in all of those categories this time. We need them in the legislature. We also have great candidates for governor (Pete Gosar) and superintendent of public instruction (Mike Ceballos). Social-justice advocate Charlie Hardy is running for U.S. Senate. Vote!

There are other good reasons for voting. It gets you out of the office for an hour or two -- if your employer deigns to have this benefit. You see old friends working the polls -- if you're a certain age (mine!). You get that nifty "I Voted" sticker for your shirt or blouse.

Here's another. Mental health care depends on voting for the best candidates.Those candidates are usually Democrats. Don't expect Republicans or Libertarians to give two shits about the mentally ill. What about Dems? Well, our country's mental health system is terrible. Blame Obama! He gets a sliver of the blame, but he also gets credit for the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity Act. Give some credit to George W. Bush for the latter. There are Republicans that have had mental health challenges and others who have mentally ill family members. But their ideology often gets in the way of logic and compassion. You need a structure to care for those who need it. That usually means gubment. Just saying "get over it" or "cowboy up" won't do it. Wishing it will go away doesn't cut it. It doesn't work for other threats, such as terrorists or Ebola or cat-five hurricanes. You need a sensible structure to deal with these threats.

Republicans have also worked overtime -- with their SCOTUS pals -- to disenfranchise voters. You can count the mentally ill in the category of marginalized citizens. Also include the poor, the undocumented, the elderly, those who speak English as a second language, etc.

And then there's the lack of Medicaid expansion, mostly in red states such as Wyoming.

Dania Douglas wrote this recent post for the NAMI blog. I decided to publish it intact on this blog. Call me lazy. Call me concerned. Just don't call me late for dinner.
Go Vote. Mental Health Care Depends On It
By Dania Douglas, NAMI State Advocacy Manager 
It’s that time of year when various colored signs start popping up on lawns and medians across the country. Going to the farmers markets or getting on and off public transportation most likely means you’re going to be handed a pamphlet of sort. In other words, it’s election season. Political advertisements fill the radio airwaves and newspapers are bursting with election-related articles. So what does any of it have to do with mental health? Each year elected officials make decisions related to health care, education, housing and employment that will directly impact the lives of people living with mental illness. Today’s candidates will become tomorrow’s elected officials, with the power to make important decisions. As voters concerned about mental health care, it is critical that we learn about issues, educate candidates about the importance of mental health, and use our votes to elect representatives that will help improve mental health care in this country.
Be Prepared
There are a few important steps you can take to make sure you’re ready for Election Day! Check to make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure you know where to go to cast your vote on Election Day as local polling places can change. Make sure your voter ID is up to date.
Get to Know the Candidates
Do your homework. Listen to what candidates are saying about mental health. Better yet, ask questions. If you feel that candidates are not addressing important issues contact their campaign. Ask them about the issues that are most important to you. If you don’t know where to start, check out our materials for sample questions. Be ready to educate the candidates, to dispel myths or stereotypes, and to explain why mental health issues are so important. If you have a chance tomeet with your candidate in person, take advantage of that opportunity. If not, email, call or write. Visit NAMI’s website for more important tips on talking with candidates.
Know Your Rights
Voting is a Constitutional right and the foundation of our democracy. People with mental illness should have full and equal access to polling places. Unfortunately, misinformation and misunderstanding about mental illness can lead to discrimination. However, there are numerousfederal laws that help safeguard your right to vote. Learning about these laws can help you make sure your rights are protected. Voters with mental illness also have the right to have assistance on voting day. If you need assistance with voting, federal law gives you the right to choose the person, such as a friend or family member, who will help you cast your ballot. In some states, people can be disqualified from voting if they have a guardian or have been declared incapacitated by a court of law. NAMI has created a guide to state laws that affect the voting rights of people with mental illness.
Election Day, Go Vote!
Nov. 4, 2014 is Election Day. Make sure you show up to the polls or find out how to cast an absentee ballot. Every vote counts. Your vote is your voice. Use it to tell candidates that mental health care matters!

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