Beginning as one of the founders of NAMI Barrington Area in 2006, Hugh Brady has served as President of the NAMI Illinois Board of Directors, continues to lead advocacy efforts on behalf of those living with mental illness in Illinois, and is a member of the Housing Task Force.
What is it that triggered your passion for legislative advocacy related to mental health issues?
I taught government for 38 years and was heavily involved in legislative advocacy when I was teaching. So, when I got involved in NAMI and saw what a mess Illinois’s mental health “system” was, that seemed like a good fit.
In the years you’ve been involved in advocating for the mental health and wellness of the residents of Illinois, what has been the most rewarding experience/outcome?
Two things: 1) Illinois passing the strongest mental health parity law in the nation; and 2) the increase in grassroots advocacy at many local NAMI affiliates (which, by the way, have done a lot of timely slipping*)!
What has been the biggest disappointment?
Illinois’s failure to create an integrated mental health system, with easy access any time a person with a mental illness comes in contact with a public agency, be it a community mental health center, police, EMT, school, college, or university, hospital emergency room, etc.
What are your hopes for the next legislative session?
That the General Assembly will take steps toward creating a statewide network of crisis centers, the third alternative for police to take someone in a mental health crisis, other than jail or the ER. It would also be wonderful if the legislature would make it easier to create permanent supportive housing for people living with mental illnesses.
*Editor’s note – “Slipping” means submitting an electronic witness slip to indicate your position on a specific piece of legislation under consideration in the Illinois General Assembly. It’s one of the quickest and most effective ways to make your voice heard. Learn more from this tip sheet from the Illinois Bar Association, or reach out to Hugh to connect to a NAMI Policy Committee member near you. More information is available here: https://www.isba.org/legislation/howtofilewitness