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Jay Edwards’ Memorial Day Speech

Statement by State Representative Jay Edwards

As your State Representative, I am proud to welcome you to NAMI’s Annual Memorial Day Cemeteries at the Ridges Cemeteries.

On this day, especially, we should remember the great 19th Century humanitarian, Dorothea Dix, who, just after the Civil War, crusaded throughout the country and the world for the creation of beautiful asylums where the mentally ill could be given “moral treatment” in a respectful setting. The persons buried in this, the oldest, Ridges Cemetery were beneficiaries of Dix’s crusade.

By the 20th Century, however, the picture had changed. Throughout the country, these stately institutions were now overcrowded and subject to scandal. By the late 20th Century, the state asylums were closed and their patients released on the pretext that, in the new age of medication, patients could be treated in the community.

But money for mental health did not all follow the newly-released inmates into society.  Instead, it tended to be swallowed up for other State priorities backed by groups and institutions with more political pull.  As recently as fifteen years ago most mentally ill were receiving no treatment at all.

However, in the last decade or so, there has been a new emphasis on helping persons with mental illness. Easily the loudest and most persistent non-governmental voice for mental health has been The National Alliance on Mental Illness at both the state and local levels.  For well over a decade, the state government has responded with more money for assisted living and wonderful projects such as the new Adam Amanda Recovery Center in Athens. I can assure you that mental health is no longer this State’s orphaned child.