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Panel to fight the 'stigma' of mental illness

By Tom Davis


Mentalhealth advocates applauded Codey for his actions andfor taking a strong stance.

"Westill have very far to go to completely rid our society of the discriminationagainst those with mental illness," said Debra Wentz, who heads the NewJersey Association of Mental Health Agencies. "Hopefully, we can makesignificant strides toward that goal."

Codey, his wife at his side, said the council will create a"mental health stigma" Web site, perform outreach services to seniorcitizens and other specialty groups and educate law enforcement officers.

Codey has made mental health a priority in his administration - largelyinspired by his wife, Mary Jo Codey, who has spokenpublicly of her struggles with postpartum depression.

Aformer Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare Inc. client who witnessed thesigning said the council should also investigate whether mental health-careproviders are guilty of discrimination.

"Theyhumiliate them. They withdraw privileges or little things," said Mark Goldof Maywood.

Thisyear, the state has budgeted $250,000 for the council, said Kevin Martone, special assistant commissioner for mental healthservices in the state Department of Human Services. It will pay for personnelwho will provide technical and legal assistance to council members, andestablish promotional campaigns in schools and elsewhere, Martonesaid.

A yearago, Codey created the Task Force on Mental Health,and asked the panel to help fix a broken system. The task force recommended thecreation of a panel that specifically fights stigma.

Atleast one in five New Jerseyfamilies know someone with mental illness, Codey said. Those who suffer from schizophrenia and otherdisorders fight discrimination on the job, at school and elsewhere, he said.

Reproduced with permission of The Record ofHackensack, NJ.

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