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Remembering Paul Wellstone and Gloria Segal, now that mental health parity is law

Paul Wellstone fought long and hard for mental health parity, and the law that finally passed in October 2008 — only because it was attached to the bailout bill — appropriately bears his name.

But Paul had planned to dedicate the legislation to someone else: Gloria Segal.

Gloria represented St. Louis Park in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1983 until her untimely death in 1993.

She and Paul knew from personal experience the toll that mental illness takes on families. And they both viewed the inequity between insurance coverage for physical illnesses and mental illnesses as an issue of discrimination that needed to be remedied by law.

Chief author of Minnesota legislation
Gloria was chief author of the Adult and Children’s Comprehensive Mental Health Acts, which became law in Minnesota in 1987 and 1989. After passing the laws, she fought to enact the guidelines and allocate the funding to make her vision of community-based care a reality.

Paul Wellstone became a great friend of Gloria’s through their common work on mental health. Paul vowed to dedicate his parity legislation in her honor.

At a conference in November 2001, Paul talked about the fight for mental health parity and the part Gloria had played. The conference was called “Opening Doors, Opening Minds, Opening Hearts,” and it was the first annual conference on mental health sponsored by the Twin Cities Jewish community. A year later, in November 2002, Paul was scheduled to present a tribute in Gloria’s memory at that year’s conference. By that time, of course, he was gone.

Instead, in memory of both Gloria and Paul, we showed this video of him speaking at the conference the year before:

Maybe if they both had lived, parity wouldn’t have taken so long. 

Laurie Kramer, a staff member of MinnPost.com, serves on the board of the Mental Health Association and also organizes the Jewish community’s annual conference on mental health. The 2008 conference is Sunday, Nov. 16, at Temple Israel. The Wellstone video was re-shown this past weekend at the Mental Health Association of Minnesota’s annual dinner as part of a tribute to the Segal family for their contributions to mental health awareness, justice, and recovery.


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