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Annual Meeting
Influential MH Advocate To Talk at Alliance Lunch
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 7 page 23-25

Each year, in conjunction with APA’s annual meeting, the APA Alliance stages numerous activities, and none is more alluring than its luncheon featuring an outstanding guest speaker.

Indeed, for this year’s luncheon the Alliance has picked a speaker who is not only a successful professional in her own right but also the spouse of an APA member. And that is Helen MacLeod Thomson of Davis, Calif.

The luncheon will be held Tuesday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the City Club of San Francisco. Members of APA, as well as the Alliance, are invited to attend. The luncheon will be followed by an architectural tour of the City Club by Masha Zakheim, daughter of a renowned local artist of the 1930s, Bernard Zakheim. For students of Art Deco architecture, the club’s interior is a beautifully preserved example of this popular 1930s style. The club also contains a famous fresco by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera titled "Allegory of California."

For six years, Thomson served in the California Assembly. In that period, she wrote 81 bills that were signed into law by governors of both parties—more than any of her Assembly colleagues. Some of her big wins had to do with mental health—for instance, a mental health parity bill and a court-ordered outpatient treatment law for persons who are severely mentally ill, refuse treatment, and are likely to become dangerous or gravely disabled without treatment (Psychiatric News, November 15, 2002).

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According to her husband, psychiatrist Captane Thomson, M.D., Helen Thomson "is a determined person; she doesn’t give up!"

Getting the latter alchemized into law was a long, arduous, political challenge with lots of debate, but Thomson persevered for four years and finally prevailed. "She is a determined person; she doesn’t give up!" her husband of 40 years, Captane (Cap) Thomson, M.D., and a former APA Assembly speaker, told Psychiatric News.

Another bill that Thomson helped shepherd into law and of which she is especially proud requires California medical schools to offer a curriculum on pain management and end-of-life care and requires hospitals and health care facilities to assess the level of pain in patients and to report it in their records.

Thomson’s legislative record is so impressive, in fact, that she has received 71 awards from a raft of associations—for instance, APA, the California Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in California, Kaiser-Permanente California, and the University of California at Davis.

How Thomson became such a successful legislator, especially in the mental health and health care arena, did not happen over night, of course. Back in high school, she worked in a sanitorium in Arlington, Mass., which sparked her interest in people with mental illness. After she studied nursing at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., she worked as a nurse for a decade or so. After that, she served on a school board, then on a county board of supervisors, and then in the California legislature.

"I have always seen my elected life as an extension of nursing, as community health," she said in an interview with Psychiatric News.

In fact, after completing her term in the California Assembly in November, Helen Thomson was re-elected to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, where, as her husband put it, "she is again going at it with a wonderful intensity and commitment. That is her nature."

Not surprisingly, mental health parity will be a major focus of Thomson’s talk at the APA Alliance luncheon. But, she said, she will probably also talk about the widespread prejudice against people with mental illness and how "it results in less funding, fewer health benefits, stereotypes about patients, even stereotypes about psychiatrists and their families."

Also, Thompson said, she will probably stress to luncheon attendees how important they are "in the legislative process, in the community, in helping to build understanding about mental illness and about treatment of the mentally ill." ▪

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

According to her husband, psychiatrist Captane Thomson, M.D., Helen Thomson "is a determined person; she doesn’t give up!"

Getting the latter alchemized into law was a long, arduous, political challenge with lots of debate, but Thomson persevered for four years and finally prevailed. "She is a determined person; she doesn’t give up!" her husband of 40 years, Captane (Cap) Thomson, M.D., and a former APA Assembly speaker, told Psychiatric News.

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