Saturday, December 10, 2016

The “Like-Minded Rally” Outside of the 2016 Democratic National Convention

The “Like-Minded Rally” Outside of the 2016 Democratic National ConventionBy Carla Rabinowitz, Advocacy Coordinator, Community Access, Inc.

Rally for Mental Health and Substance Use Communities in Philadelphia, PA

On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, we had a blast in Philadelphia, in Dilworth Park, the political hub outside of the Democratic National Convention. There were rallies for Bernie Sanders and a march for Black Lives Matter while we were there, and people were selling political buttons and passing out literature for “Food Not Bombs” and other advocacy events in the area. Elected officials were milling about. We even bumped into some famous reporters like Geraldo Rivera who were documenting the convention. Community Access and NYAPRS sponsored two buses for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We heard from speakers on mental health like former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who championed behavioral health parity when he served in the House of Representatives. Also speaking was the CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, Linda Rosenberg, who grew up in New York City and used to work as the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health.We heard from a super delegate from New Jersey, who rushed back to the convention after speaking with us; he needed to get to the convention in enough time to vote.

We heard from family members and substance use advocates who spoke on the need for increased access to services and increased funding for community supports.

The event, called the “Like-Minded Rally,” was part of a national movement to call attention to the need for federal funding for substance use and mental health services and was sponsored by the Kennedy Forum, the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services, and the Scattergood Foundation.

It was hot, but we were in a part of the park with water fountains that stretched from the beginning of the park to the end. The event organizers had plenty of ice and water for people attending the rally who came from various parts of Pennsylvania and New York. Community Access brought water and plenty of granola bars and sandwiches so we could keep our energy up throughout the day.It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be so near the Democratic Convention. Patrick Kennedy took personal pictures with everyone. He was so gracious and demonstrated his commitment to service-users and family members. Some folks took pictures with the politicians and media in the park.

Most of us were just watching everyone from the convention come and go in the park, listening to the music, and having a great time.On the way home we were singing and chanting, remembering our power and voice as advocates. It was a day to remember.Pullout: “On the way home we were singing and chanting, remembering our power and voice as advocates. It was a day to remember.”

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