Author Archives: David

Increase Awareness, Funding for Mental Health Initiatives

Representative Helton & Senator Gardenhire,
Before Covid-19 upended everything, you were gracious enough to meet with me when I visited your Nashville offices in February when I participated in Nami TN’s Day on the Hill, to advocate for better mental health care. Thank you for your time.

The first full week of October is Mental Health Awareness Week. Today, Saturday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day.

Mental Illness is a Serious Issue.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 46 million American adults lived with a mental illness in 2017. That’s almost 20% of our adult population. Furthermore, over 4% of US adults suffered from a serious mental crisis. Since Tennessee has almost 9 million residents, we can assume that over 360,000 of our neighbors suffer from serious mental conditions. And Covid-19 has only made this suffering worse. As I have written to you in the past, my wife (Lauren) is one of these adults.

You may recall that in the summer of 2019, Lauren suffered from a mental health crisis, and assaulted me. When I yelled to the neighbors to call 911, I knew that it was imperative that she receive treatment from a mental hospital. But unfortunately, the responding police officers didn’t agree, and they hauled her off to jail.

We Need More Funding for Mental Health Initiatives.

Lauren’s story is a classic example of why it is crucial that Tennessee directs more funding towards Crisis Intervention Teams and for mental health programs. Crisis Intervention Teams are made up of police officers who get specialized training on how to deal with situations involving someone experiencing a mental health crisis. The officers who responded that evening were clearly not trained to realize Lauren needed medical attention.

So I’m writing once again to ask for this funding.

Additionally, I ask that you direct more funding towards substance abuse and prevention programs. My cousin died, just 2 months ago, due to an accidental overdose. He was one of millions of people affected by the Opioid Crisis. He wanted to live, and he had recently completed rehab. Unfortunately, this was not enough. The outcome was what nobody wanted.

Thank you for your time, and thank you for your service to the state of Tennessee and Hamilton County.

Sincerely,
David White

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Day on the Hill with NAMI Tennessee

A few months ago, a friend told me about NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness). NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. They provide education and support to those affected by mental illness. They also do a lot of work to increase public awareness about mental health conditions. NAMI Tennessee recently sponsored a grassroots advocacy training event in Nashville, and I went!

In addition to receiving training on how to interact with my state legislators, I got to network with other people affected by mental illness. I also got to meet with my state representative and state senator.

This year, NAMI Tennessee is advocating for four things:

State Senator Richard Briggs, from Knoxville, joined us and provided some insights into mental health advocacy and the TN legislature.
State Senator Richard Briggs, from Knoxville, joined us and provided some insights into mental health advocacy and the TN legislature.
  1. We want a $250k budget amendment to expand local Crisis Intervention Teams.
    I’m really excited about the CIT initiative. As some of my readers know, my wife went to jail last summer when she had a mental health crisis and assaulted me. When I had the neighbors call 911, I had no clue that Lauren would be taken to jail. I begged the responding officers to take her to the hospital. They told me that their hands were tied.

    I don’t know if anything would have turned out differently last summer if the officers had been trained. But I do know that police who have CIT training are much more likely to take someone to a treatment facility than they are to make an arrest.

  2. We want stronger laws around insurance parity for mental health & substance use disorder services.
    The TN Department of Commerce and Insurance should report on how they review health plans and hold insurers accountable for providing these services without undue burdens.

  3. We want mental health insurance for those who cannot afford it.
    We want our state legislators to support a bill that would provide insurance for people who don’t qualify for TennCare or for federal health insurance.

  4. Finally, we want more funding for mental health programs.
    Tennessee, like many states, is in desperate need of money for all sorts of programs. We are asking for $34 million to help fund all of these initiatives. We are also asking for $250 million to go into a new Mental Health Trust Fund.

I learned and I networked.

I met with my state representative, Esther Helton.
I met with my state representative, Esther Helton.

Ever since my family’s experience last summer, I knew that I wanted to get involved in advocacy. I vowed to myself that I would go to Nashville sometime in 2020. So when my friend told me about NAMI, I knew this was the perfect opportunity.

This day-long event was a great learning experience for me. When I was in high-school, I participated in a “youth in government” event (in South Carolina), and got to go to South Carolina’s State House. So, in a way, I knew what to expect. But this was the real deal (and I can now say that I’m an experienced lobbyist. Cue the big bucks!)

I met 3 people, who are board members of NAMI Chattanooga, and I look forward to getting involved in this local chapter.

I also had great conversations with Representative Esther Helton, my state representative, as well as Senator Todd Gardenhire, my state senator.

This was definitely a valuable experience for me, and I will make an effort to get involved with more NAMI activities in the future. I will almost certainly be going to Nashville again.

Here’s how you can find help, give help, and get involved for the mental health community.

To learn more about NAMI, visit https://www.nami.org/.
NAMI Tennessee’s website is at https://namitn.org/.
And the Chattanooga Chapter for NAMI is http://www.namichattanooga.org/

A very practical thing that you can do is to call your state representatives and ask them to support increased funding for Crisis Intervention Teams. This is the initiative that I’m the most excited about, and would have impacted my family the most if one had responded to our 911 call last summer.

But you can also ask your legislators to support NAMI Tennessee’s other initiatives as well. If you are in Tennessee, find your representative’s and senator’s contact information at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators/.

Thank you for your support!

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