By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
TILTON — Ken Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, was among those honored in a ceremony held recently in the Executive Council Chambers at the New Hampshire State House.
At the awards event hosted by the New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Disability, Norton was presented with a special recognition award by Gov. Chris Sununu.
He was recognized alongside legislative leaders Senate President Chuck Morse, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper and Rep. Dave Danielson. The award ceremony was held to honors those who embody the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
The five men were honored for their efforts during the last legislative session to craft and successfully pass House Bill 400, which will improve access to timely mental health treatment.
Problems in New Hampshire’s mental health system have been building for years and one of the primary symptoms is the average of 50 people per day waiting in emergency departments around the state for inpatient psychiatric treatment.
Gov. Sununu has termed the situation a crisis, and he as well as Morse, Jasper and Bradley each visited emergency departments to speak with patients, hospital staff and family members to learn first-hand about the problem. At the awards ceremony, Gov. Sununu lauded the efforts of the award recipients while noting, “HB 400 is only the first step and there is more work to be done.”
Norton led advocacy efforts to improve access to timely mental health care. He testified at numerous public hearings and worked closely with legislators on drafting and revising the proposed legislation.
During the awards ceremony Sen. Bradley said “Ken Norton from NAMI NH is tireless in his advocacy efforts and serves as the conscience for improving mental health services in New Hampshire..”
NAMI NH is a state wide grass roots non profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of all people impacted by mental illness through support, education and advocacy. This year marks their 35th year of service in New Hampshire and their staff and volunteers serve over 12,000 people per year. NAMI NH’s Connect Suicide Prevention Program is a national best practice that has trained in over 40 states, 25 tribal nations and five countries. More information can be found at www.naminh.org.
At an awards ceremony at the New Hampshire State House are, from left, House Speaker Shawn Jasper, Rep. Dave Danielson, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, NAMI NH Executive Director Ken Norton and Gov. Chris Sununu. (Courtesy photo)