For Tipper Gore, it takes a village to address a community’s mental health challenges. And Greenville is a good example of that.
“People in Greenville are doing more than what a lot of communities are doing, and they should be praised for that fact,” she says.“Perhaps, if more of us speak up then more communities around the country can be like Greenville.”
On May 13, Gore will be the keynote speaker at the 2nd Annual Southeastern Symposium on Mental Health. During the 1990s Gore was a steadfast advocate for mental health. While married to Vice President Al Gore, she worked with President Bill Clinton’s administration to pass the Mental Health Parity Act in 1996. She also served as mental health policy advisor to the president.
Since then, the public’s view of mental illness has evolved, and the stigma has lessened, Gore says. “We see it with young people, teenagers, who are open to having conversations about mental illness, but we still have a way to go,” she says.
One of the major injustices is the high incarceration rate of people with mental health problems. Families, communities, and police do not know how to handle people with mental health issues, and so they end up in prisons. “It’s terrible. It’s something our country ought to address as a moral issue,” Gore says.
One obstacle is a lack of funding for mental health initiatives and treatment. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides some money for mental health services, but it doesn’t go far enough to meet the need, Gore says.
“I just saw that Congress will not vote on an ACA replacement, and that’s good news, but it’s the only good news I see right now,” she says. “There are going to be tremendous funding cuts in areas we think are important, including mental health services and research.”
The Southeastern Symposium will include discussions on how to improve access to mental health services and reduce stigma. Writer Pete Earley will be the keynote speaker on Friday, May 12. He was a 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist for this book, “Crazy: A Father’s Search through America’s Mental Health Madness.”
Other speakers include Dan Westbrook, a partner with Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough; Frederick Frese, coordinator of the Summit County Recovery Project in Ohio; Dr. Vladimir Maletic, a clinical professor of neuropsychiatry and behavioral science at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia; Rich Jones, executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery Greenville, and Dr. Desmond Kelly, vice chair of academics and community affairs for the Greenville Health System department of pediatrics.
For more information about the symposium and to register, visit sesmh.org.