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Georgia Forum Identifies Strategies To Improve Mental Health Services for Children

Georgia Forum Identifies Strategies To Improve Mental Health Services for Children

"The day things changed was when someone finally sat down with me and explained what was going on in my brain," said Danielle Smith. "That's when I realized something actually was wrong with me. I wasn't just crazy."

Ms. Smith, a 22-year-old diagnosed with schizophrenia and manic depression, told her story to a group of 350 mental health care providers, advocates, and consumers at the May "Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum." Participants at the event, "Children's Mental Health: Generating Hope Through Shared Responsibility," discussed strategies to improve children's mental health services from various perspectives including those of business, insurance, and foundation representatives; faith group and family members; and juvenile justice and clinical personnel.

"The Forum made it clear that there are effective treatments, we know how to provide them, and we need to tell that story so that resources are made available to children who need help," said John Gates, director of The Carter Center's Mental Health Program.In its third year, the Forum touched on several issues covered in Mrs. Carter's new book, Helping Someone With Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers (Times Books, 1998), which covers the scientific, social, and health care aspects of mental illness; symptoms; and treatment.

"With our new knowledge of the brain, medication and treatment methods for mental illnesses have changed dramatically," writes Mrs. Carter. "These illnesses can now be diagnosed. They can be treated, and the overwhelming majority of people who suffer can lead normal lives—living at home, working, being productive citi-zens. I want everyone to know that."

River Blindness Treatments Increase 34 Percent in 1997

The Carter Center's Global 2000 River Blindness Program (GRBP) helped provide 5.1 million treatments for river blindness in 1997. Working with local health workers in Latin America, Cameroon, Nigeria, Sudan, and Uganda, GRBP's total distribution increased 34 percent compared to 1996.

We are pleased with the steady growth of our program and grateful for the significant contributions made by our many partners including Merck, Lions Clubs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others," said Frank Richards, M.D., technical director of GRBP. "Our colleagues in partner countries are working hard to alleviate the suffering associated with river blindness, and we hope to assist them in providing almost 6 million Mectizan® treatments by the end of 1998."

River blindness (onchocerciasis) is a parasitic infection that causes incessant itching, skin rashes, eyesight damage, and often blindness. The pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. Inc. discovered Mectizan®, which prevents the disease through a single yearly treatment. In 1987, Merck decided to donate the drug to all infected people for as long as necessary. Since then, The Carter Center and other partners have provided more than 100 million treatments to help control the disease in many parts of the world.

Atlanta Project Launches Child Health/Immunization Initiative

Why would 200 parents and children go to school on a sunny Saturday in May? To learn more about keeping their families healthy.

The health fair at Gresham Park Elementary School in DeKalb County, Ga., launched a new child health/immunization initiative facilitated by The Atlanta Project (TAP). The fair offered preventive health screenings, immunizations for children, entertainment, and information booths covering a variety of health topics.

"This is the first of several collaborations among school systems, community residents, major health care providers, advocacy and social support agencies, academic institutions, and businesses in Fulton, Clayton, and DeKalb counties," said Darryl James, TAP's health project manager. "We believe this is the beginning of a more aggressive, reliable, and accessible health care delivery system to traditionally underserved populations."

A program of The Carter Center, TAP helps some of Atlanta's neediest citizens address quality-of-life issues through partnership and collaboration. Current projects focus on after-school activities for middle school students, pre-kindergarten classes for 4-year-olds, job training and placement for welfare recipients, and vaccinations and health care for young children.

The Gresham Park health fair involved several community partners: the Gresham Park Elementary School PTA, Southside Healthcare Inc., the DeKalb County Board of Health, Clayton College and State University, FamilyPlus, and TAP.

"Southside Healthcare is pleased to join The Atlanta Project in promoting prevention and wellness among our youth," said David Williams, M.D., Southside's CEO. "By teaching future leaders about health, we can prevent many of the diseases that affect adults today."

Council Seeks Support for Arms Restraint in Western Hemisphere

The Carter Center continues to pursue the issue of arms restraint in the Americas. In early April, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, and former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada sent a letter to 34 presidents and prime ministers in the Western Hemisphere. Their letter urged leaders to address conventional arms control at the 1998 Summit of the Americas, held April 18-19 in Santiago, Chile. Although the topic was not on the agenda, several leaders attending the conference raised it.

We were encouraged by the support that several Latin American and Caribbean leaders gave to the initiative," said Robert Pastor, director of The Carter Center's Latin American and Caribbean Program.

"Those governments considering significant arms purchases found themselves on the defensive, trying to justify their decisions to their people and colleagues. Over the long run, this will become more difficult for them to do."The Carter Center sent the letter after co-hosting a March 25 conference with the Council for a Livable World to discuss the Summit agenda, which focused on education. "It is wrong for Latin American governments to spend our scarce resources to keep huge armed forces, which are not needed any more," said Nobel laureate Oscar Arias, who co-led the March conference with Presidents Carter and Sánchez de Lozada. "We should be spending those resources on education."

All three leaders are members of The Carter Center's Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government, which promotes democracy and economic cooperation in the hemisphere. Their work helped draw attention to an issue that has public support. For example, a poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal showed that 69 percent of Latin Americans and 85 percent of Americans "are against the sale of high-tech weapons to Latin American countries."

"We'll continue to pursue arms control in the Western Hemisphere," Dr. Pastor said. "The Carter Center also is collaborating with nongovernmental organizations in Europe to build support for arms restraint."

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