Washington, D.C.

January 15, 2002

White House to Meet with Mental Health Consumer Activists






WASHINGTON DC, January 15--On January 18, a national coalition of rights advocates will meet with President Bush's disability liaison, to press for greater commitment to including people labeled with psychiatric disabilities in federal policymaking.  It is the first meeting hosted by the Bush White House to focus on the self-identified need of that community, which include alternative service-delivery methods and enforcement of mental health consumers' civil and legal rights.


The group has praised the Bush Administration's public support for community-based alternatives for people with psychiatric disabilities, and its stated goal of encouraging implementation of the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, which prohibits states from unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities. However, its members will seek assurance that the Administration's deeds will match its words.


At the White House meeting with Jennifer Sheehy, the group will also request greater involvement in federal policymaking, pointing to the under representation of people with psychiatric disabilities on federal panels such as the National Council on Disability (NCD) and the National Commission on Mental Health now in formation. The coalition also plans to air members' concerns about the Administration's failure to consult with individuals who have a history of psychiatric disability when making policy decisions affecting them (such as suspending federal regulations that would protect children from excessive use of restraints in psychiatric facilities) and to vigorously enforce the civil rights of individuals with psychiatric disabilities under federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act, and the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.


As a blueprint for federal policy, the coalition supports NCD's 2000 report, From Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for Themselves ( "This is the single most important federal report on issues relating to people with psychiatric disabilities," said Dan Fisher, a psychiatrist who was once diagnosed with schizophrenia. "We ask that the White House publicize it and implement its recommendations, especially regarding increased representation on advisory boards and councils, consultation prior to mental health policy making, increased research on recovery from psychiatric disabilities, and more funding for peer-run support services."



The coalition members scheduled to meet with White House staff are:

--Pat Risser and Ron Bassman, current and past presidents of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA);

--Dan Fisher and Laurie Ahern, Co-Directors of the National Empowerment


--Andrew Imparato, President and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities;

--Michael Allen, Senior Staff Attorney at the Bazelon Center for Mental

Health Law;

--Tom Behrendt, Legal Director of the  Connecticut Legal Rights Project;

--Yoshiko Dart, disability rights activist;

--Celia Brown, Board President of Support Coalition International;

--Judi Chamberlin, Board member of NARPA & Support Coalition


--Susan Stefan, NARPA Board and the Center for Public Representation. 

Also attending the meeting will be Marca Bristo, Chairperson of the

National Council on Disability.


Media contacts: Susan Stefan, CPR,  (617) 965-0776 ext. 15;  Pat Risser,

NARPA, (503) 655-2530; Michael Allen, Bazelon Center, (202) 467-5730