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General session highlights from NatCon15

April 24, 2015
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Photos Courtesy of National Council

The National Council for Behavioral Health 2015 conference in Orlando featured celebrity keynote speakers. Here are some of the highlights.

Linda Rosenberg, National Council president and CEO, set the tone by discussing the need to reinvent for success and for survival.

“I don’t believe any of us thought 10 or 15 years ago that behavioral health would take center stage.”

“Did you ever think we’d be in competition with Walmart?”

“We know that people recover, and we expect people to recover, but not everyone recovers on the timetable we or they might like. The family is left to wonder how to care for a loved one. They are angry, afraid and feel very alone. They deserve better.”


Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy presented a “state of the union” outlook, noting that mental health parity is still a hurdle and he will continue to fight for it.

“I am over the anti-stigma stuff. I want to enforce the law.”

“We could roll out a diversion program to every hospital in this country tomorrow because we know what to do.”

“It’s the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We need ADA to be applied to the ‘invisible’ disabilities of mental health.”

David Satcher, former Surgeon General of the United States whose groundbreaking reports in the 1990s demonstrate a commitment to eliminating health disparities for underserved groups, highlighted how mental health and suicide remain neglected issues.

“You can save money by treating people with dignity and providing them with integrated care.”


ashley-juddActress and advocate Ashley Judd is a survivor of child abuse and neglect and is outspoken on the need to care for those with behavioral health conditions. Judd appeared on stage with her therapy dog, Shug, and reminded everyone that personal stories give voice to victims and change public opinion.

“We don’t need to ‘maintain.’ We can grow. Take that home with you as something you can use.”

"Life is a perpetual classroom. I don't always want to go to school, it is a perpetual classroom teaching me to heal."


Ezekiel Emanuel, bioethicist, trained oncologist and political scientist, in January wrote a viewpoint in JAMA, “Bring Back the Asylum,” which provoked national discussion. In the general session, he outlined the big trends in healthcare, including the winners and losers. He was also called out for his use of the term “the mentally ill,” which he apologized for.

 “We used the word ‘asylum’ very consciously as a place to recover that is nourishing. Outpatient is better, but we need asylum for those who are harmful to themselves or others.”

“I believe we will finally get parity.”


General Colin Powell served as the first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was appointed Secretary of State by President George W. Bush. A four-star general, Powell’s numerous awards include two Presidential Medals of Freedom. He spoke about the need to keep moving forward.

“One day you’re Secretary of State. The next day, you ain’t!”

“I have high blood pressure. My wife has depression. We get up in the morning and take our pills and go about our day. What’s the problem?”

“We are a nation of nations. Diversity is so beautiful.”


National Council 2016 will be held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, March 7 to 9.