You recently honored Santa Cruz resident Eda Lew Balsam at the State Assembly’s Holocaust Survivor Memorial event. What led to your selection of Ms. Balsam?
Ms. Eda Lew Balsam is a longtime resident of Santa Cruz County whose harrowing journey began in Antwerp, Belgium when she was just 12 years old. At the time of the Nazi occupation, Eda’s family fled to the United Kingdom, but was forced to return to Belgium where there was a growing threat of imprisonment and death. Eda’s family subsequently traveled to Paris where they were subject to the threats made by the Vichy government, but were fortunately hidden by a non-Jewish family.
Their flight took them on to Spain, through Cuba, and finally to New York City, via Florida. In 1989, Eda moved to Santa Cruz and has written a book about her experiences entitled Escape from Antwerp.
On April 19, 2010, Eda visited the Capitol with her son, David, where she was recognized and honored in the Assembly Chambers with other holocaust survivors and WWII veteran liberators. The ceremonies were powerful as many voiced the historic and moral imperative to “never forget” the crimes of Hitler that gave rise to the term genocide in the wake of the extermination of over 6 million Jewish people.
The State Legislature has declared May as “Mental Health Awareness Month.” As the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, what significance does this issue have for you and your committee?
Mental health issues impact all communities and all demographics. The man you see talking to himself on Pacific Avenue is only one of thousands who are suffering from this painful disease. Currently there are 3,557 people who regularly receive mental health services from Santa Cruz County.
A majority of the most seriously mentally ill patients are covered by Medi-Cal, but more needs to be done. The Assembly Committee on Health, which I chair, recently passed out Assembly Bill (AB) 1600, authored by Assemblymember Jim Beall, which would require insurance companies to provide coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment at parity with other medical conditions. Additionally, the committee passed AB 2234, authored by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, which would increase the provision of mental health treatment and services to older adults.
The stigma of mental illness has prevented communities and the government from affording full coverage and protection for individuals and families afflicted with mental health issues. Building and protecting a network of mental health services, housing, and employment opportunities for individuals is critical to the overall health of our communities. I encourage everyone to learn more about mental illness and the services that are available to treat and employ those afflicted with this disease.
PQ: Mental health issues impact all communities and all demographics. The man you see talking to himself on Pacific Avenue is only one of thousands who are suffering from this painful disease. Currently there are 3,557 people who regularly receive mental health services from Santa Cruz County.
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