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An energized crowd at National Council '08, day 1

May 2, 2008
by Douglas J. Edwards, Editor-in-Chief
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I have been to several National Council conferences, and this has been one of the most energized. The meeting began with a performance by the Boston Children's Chorus. It was an unexpected--and eye-opening--experience at 8:30 in the morning. It was a good way to get people's attention and wake up the crowd.The Boston Children's Chorus--an inspirational start to the day National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg followed and received a well-deserved warm response from attendees. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the morning session was analyst/commentator James Carville's animated take on the national political scene. There weren't enough chairs to seat those who came to hear him. I was disappointed that he did not have much to say specifically related to behavioral healthcare, but the crowd definitely seemed to eat up his view of the Obama-Clinton slug-fest. Perhaps that's the type of energy and enthusiasm needed to spill into the more field-related sessions later in the conference.

Linda Rosenberg--warmly received by National Council members
James Carville--a Democrat, and proud of it!
In chairs, on the floor, out the door--it seemed like everyone wanted to hear James Carville speak. Michael and Kitty Dukakis headlined the afternoon general session--actually, it was much more Kitty than Michael. Kitty Dukakis spoke quite powerfully about her experience with depression and her support for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a treatment approach that the field, and even more so society, has had difficulty accepting. Unfortunately, Michael Dukakis did not have much time to speak, but in the few moments he did have it was clear that he is no fan of the current Bush administration. Michael Dukakis clearly has his finger on the presidential candidates' interest--or, rather, lack of interest--in behavioral healthcare. But it's not a problem with just Obama, Clinton, and McCain, as he noted that the nation's governors avoided behavioral healthcare issues in their state-of-the-state addresses. He called on the people in the room--influential decision makers and community leaders--to pressure politicians to pay closer attention to these issues.

Kitty Dukakis--a strong supporter of ECT
Michael Dukakis jokingly blamed himself for the current Bush administration, saying that George W. Bush wouldn't have run in 2000 if his father had lost in 1988. The only problem with the conference is the exhibit hall. Low ceilings and a maze-like arrangement have some exhibitors and attendees grumbling. Many have recalled the unfriendly exhibit space during the National Council's conference in Portland, Oregon, some years ago. I was at that conference and frankly I'm surprised that the National Council again scheduled an event in a hotel without a wide-open exhibit space. But as long as the attendees and vendors connect, I suppose the aesthetics are less important.

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