Maryland Rally For Mental Health Awareness - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Maryland Rally For Mental Health Awareness

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. - As the gun debate rages on in Washington, mental healthcare advocates rally in Maryland. More than 400 people from all over the state gathered at State House Square on Tuesday. Some of those attending are now living with mental illness, but all who turned out are supporting positive change. Their reason for traveling to the state capital was to convince legislators to act on improving Mental Healthcare. "We can show other people, we're just like everyone else," stated one unnamed supporter.

Daphne Klein, the executive director of "On Our Own" of Prince George's County, a resource and support center for the mentally ill, tells WMDT why how the world views mental health need to change, "That is a stigma on our society. And if we really want to make a difference, and we really want to recover in the world, then the change starts now."

"We still have a ways to go," admits Linda Raines, with the Maryland Mental Health Coalition, "and so today we're pressing for access to services, better public education, and that people understand the signs and symptoms and know where to go for help." The Maryland Mental Health Coalition organized this event, bringing together more than 30 mental health care support groups.

During the rally, Raines addressed the crowd saying, "We are at a historic turning point in healthcare in this country. And it's an equally historic moment in mental health.  This year marks a half a century from the date when president Kennedy signed the federal community mental health act."

And a number of lawmakers turned out to recognize the need for change. (R) Representative Addie Eckardt stated, "We have a lot of great things, but it's not available to everybody."

Legislators who spoke Tuesday did not come empty handed. (D) Senator Rich Madaleno outlined some key points of a new bill to address gaps in services, which he called the Mental Health Safety act of 2013, which was met with applause from those at the rally. "The bill will create school mental health services in every school," explains Madaleno, "which will address all the mental needs, large and small, of all of Maryland's children."

Despite the focus on Mental Health, there was no getting around the fact that Maryland's leaders also have to deal with the debate over gun control. "It's such an emotional issue," admitted (D) Sen. Thomas Middleton, "and sometimes it can monopolize all of the conversation. But no where along this discourse are we going to lose sight of the mental health piece to it."

And since funding for mental health services was at the heart of much of the discussion at the rally in Annapolis, Senator Middleton left folks at the event with uplifting news from the Governor, "It's nice to know, this year, that there are no cuts to mental health. Additionally, the governor has put in more money for mental health care, so that is a real relief."

Mental Health advocates in the state of Delaware hosted a similar rally last week in Dover - for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Delaware Annual Conference. Governor Jack Markell was one of the speakers at this event, and he also addressed ways to improve the quality of life for those affected by mental illness in the first state.

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