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Government News
Senator Awarded for Efforts to Improve Access to MH Care
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 5 page 5-5
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Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) has "consistently worked for better overall health care with a focus on ensuring that Medicare Part D works effectively for seniors and the disabled." 

Credit: Office of Sen. Gordon Smith

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) received the AMA's Nathan B. Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service after being nominated in an effort led by APA.

He was honored in the category of "Outstanding Senator" for his work on behalf of Medicare and Medicaid patients, patients in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, people with mental illness, and other public health causes such as suicide prevention.

The award was presented last month at a banquet hosted by the AMA in Washington, D.C. Smith was nominated by APA and five other organizations with the support of the Oregon Psychiatric Association.

The five organizations were the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and Oregon Medical Association.

"Sen. Smith has consistently worked for better overall health care with a focus on ensuring that Medicare Part D works effectively for seniors and the disabled," according to the nominating letter signed by APA President Pedro Ruiz, M.D. "As chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Smith has held numerous hearings addressing key health care issues affecting seniors, as well as others. These include the Medicare Part D drug benefit implementation, managed care and cost savings in Medicaid, generic drug use, suicide, HIV, health care globalization, embryonic stem cell research, and care in national emergencies.

"When the President's 2005 budget called for up to $60 billion in Medicaid cuts, Sen. Smith rose above partisanship to oppose these cuts, to protect low-income and/or disabled individuals from a benefits reduction," the letter stated. "He had bipartisan success in reaping a substantial, sixfold reduction in cuts to $10 billion during this budget resolution process."

Smith also turned the tragedy of his son's suicide into positive public policy by obtaining unanimous Senate consent for passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act in September 2004, which has authorized federal funding since 2005 for programs to prevent youth suicide (Psychiatric News, November 19, 2004).

In October 2004 the federal Campus Suicide Prevention grant program was implemented under the act. "The impact of this act on youth suicide prevention is impressive," the letter stated. "Designated for 2007 are $5 million for mental and behavioral health services on campus, $30 million for youth suicide early intervention and prevention strategies, and $5 million for a technical assistance center."

In March 2006 Smith published Remembering Garrett: One Family's Battle Against Depression, a memorial to his son and his struggle with depression, and a personal account of the family's efforts to cope with his suicide. The book was published by Carroll and Graf Publishers, New York.

"His book will encourage and inspire some to seek help for themselves or others," the letter stated. "In this way, Sen. Smith sparked public dialog about mental illness, its serious impact on our lives, and reasons why access to mental health services is so essential."

APA Director of Government Relations Nicholas Meyers told Psychiatric News that "there couldn't have been a better choice" for the award than Smith, who Meyers said has been "extremely helpful to APA" on a wide range of issues.

"He led the fight in the Senate to rescind GOP-directed Medicaid cuts, and in doing that he aligned himself with Democrats, which took a lot of courage," Meyers said. "We were very glad that we were able to garner so much support for the nomination from the other specialty societies." ▪

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Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) has "consistently worked for better overall health care with a focus on ensuring that Medicare Part D works effectively for seniors and the disabled." 

Credit: Office of Sen. Gordon Smith

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