Senator Fights for Mental Health

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    Senator Fights for Mental Health Ila Mar


At the Stephen F. Austin hotel in Austin on Thursday, Senator  Judith Zaffirini celebrated her award by talking about her accomplishments and thoughts on mental health. Her interest in mental health was initially sparked at age 5 when she was in the first grade. One of her classmates had contracted polio, and she decided to help by selling peanuts to raise money for the March of Dimes. As she began to be more involved in mental health, she realized the importance of the work that they were doing, even as children, by raising money for research.

Later at 22, she was involved with the Texas Association of Mental Health and learned of all the misunderstandings people have of mental illnesses and how people overlook the consequences of not treating them. Zaffirini expresses how far we have come in mental health care.

“We have moved from shackles and electric shock treatment and rage therapy, to instead a more humane, person-centered, psychiatric treatment that focuses on family community support and education, skills training and medication when needed and as needed to insure recovery and independence. That is quite a journey.”
-Judith Zaffirini

Zaffirni says one of her highest moments of joy is when she was appropriated an additional 325 million dollars to eliminate the waiting list for mental health services. She reminded everyone throughout her speech that you must take anger and transfer it into courage to make a difference. She claimed that it is our future, our quest and our responsibility. After all of her hard work, Zaffirini was very honored to be receiving this reward.

“Oh it is so exciting to follow honorees like my dear friends Joe and Terry Long, and to receive an award in the name of the person who served on the board when I was an information specialist,” said Zaffirini.

Also, at the age of 22, she was named to the board of Mental Health of America. Shortly thereafter, she was at the state capitol advocating and testifying for mental health. In 1987, Zaffirini was still at the State Capitol but this time she was sitting at the other side of the table as the newly elected senator for District 21. Twenty-seven years later she is still delighted to carry the Texas Senate.

Zaffirini’s future goals include raising more funds for mental health care, as well as continuing to focus on legislation.

Ila Mar, KTSW News.

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