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Washington, DC — Mental Health America (MHA) will gather this evening at The National Press Club to celebrate its 110th birthday and honor Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island for her work to address mental illness Before Stage 4. MHA awards its 2019 B4Stage4 Leadership Award to Governor Raimondo for her leadership and commitment to strengthening behavioral health in Rhode Island through the provision of mental health services for students, increasing access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and supporting behavioral health parity.

“Addressing mental health concerns Before Stage 4 means more than waiting for a mental health crisis to occur before we act,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA. “We must continue to improve access to care, services and supports. And we need to put a premium on early identification and early intervention for everyone with mental health concerns. We must address these crises before tragedies strike—and Governors play a critical role in accomplishing this.”

Governor Raimondo has worked closely with advocates, including MHA Rhode Island, in support of the Mental Health Parity Initiative, and she signed an Executive Order that directs state agencies to expand access to treatment for people living with mental illness or substance use disorders, ensure parity between physical and mental health, and encourage people to seek treatment when needed. The three main goals outlined in the Governor's order are improved access to mental health treatment specialists; development of a plan to lower the costs of mental health treatment; and working to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.

Arguing that as a matter of public policy, mental illnesses are the only chronic diseases or conditions that we wait until Stage 4 to treat – and then often inappropriately only through incarceration, MHA branded its B4Stage4 philosophy in 2014 as a means of treating mental health concerns as public health - not public safety - issues, and drawing attention to the need for early detection and early intervention to promote recovery and health, just as we do with other chronic diseases. MHA created the B4Stage4 Leadership Award in 2016 to highlight the important work of Governors around the country on these issues.

“Now is the time for leadership on this issue, and MHA is happy to see the Governor of Rhode Island walk the walk on mental health reform,” concluded Gionfriddo. “We hope that every state prioritizes mental health, now and in the coming years—our goal is to someday be able to give the MHA B4Stage4 Leadership Award to every single Governor in this country.”