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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 5, 1999
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                        ON 6/5/99 RADIO ADDRESS
                           FOR HEALTH POLICY

                           The Briefing Room

1:48 P.M. EDT

MR. TOIV: Let me explain -- first of all, our briefer today is Chris Jennings, who is Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy. Let me explain the complicated embargo situation we have here. This is really going to be, in effect, three briefings. The first briefing will be on tomorrow's radio address, which will be on the subject of mental health. And it will be the President and Mrs. Gore will actually do the radio address. It's going to be recorded later today and we'll have a transcript for you and we will have paper on that, and on everything else for you, in a little while.

But the first briefing is going to be on that and, of course, there will be an embargo on that that goes until 10:06 a.m. on Saturday.

Then Chris is going to talk to you about the mental health conference for Monday. He's going to talk about both the process and the policy announcements that will be made on Monday. That embargo goes until 7:00 p.m., Sunday. In other words, okay for Monday papers.

You'll wrap that up and then Chris will do a third briefing on today's event, on the disability event and give you some information on that and on the announcements there. Then he'll be done.

So I'm going to get up and remind you of these embargoes periodically.


MR. JENNINGS: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you, Barry. I'll start with the radio address, as Barry suggested. First, as you know, all of our work around the Mental Health Conference has been spearheaded in a major way and centered in a focused way by Tipper Gore, Mrs. Gore. She is the President's health care advisor on mental health care and she has been the leading force within the administration from day one on mental health care issues.

I'd like just to talk a few things about Mrs. Gore, and then I'm going to get to the Radio Address, and then we'll break for the next part of the briefing.

Mrs. Gore has been involved with mental health care for decades, literally. She's, I think, courageously shared her own personal experiences most recently. She's had her own personal experience with other family members. But most importantly, she's integrated that personal commitment in a very, very professional way on a policy perspective since, easily, 1990, when she founded the Tennessee Voices for Children, which is a coalition to promote development of services for children and youth with serious behavioral, emotional and substance abuse or other mental health care problems.

But when we started this administration in 1993, from day one, she was designated as a mental health care advisor and worked very tirelessly on ensuring that our mental health care provisions in the Health Security Act and subsequent legislations were strong. She's also been very, obviously, involved in the mental health parity debate. In 1996 she was the driving force behind the administration's position, and then subsequently on the implementation of that legislation.

She also helped make sure that our commitment to mental health was secured again when we were debating the Children's Health Insurance Program, where we secured a specific requirement that mental health coverage be part of the health coverage for children. And, clearly, in other activities as well -- patients' bill of rights, and privacy, which I'd be happy to go into more detail.

She's not only a principal, but she's a colleague, and someone that I know, speaking for myself and all the other agencies who have been working so hard with her, respect greatly. And I think you'll see her perform admirably in the first-ever White House Conference on Mental Health, which will occur on Monday.

One in five Americans suffer from mental illness at some point in their life. And I'm just going to throw you out a couple more statistics to illustrate that this is a multi-generational issue. One in five children, or teenagers, with a mental disorder do not seek or receive treatment. And approximately four out of 100 teenagers get seriously depressed each year.

But this challenge and this disorder is not in any way focused only on the younger ages of our population. It is throughout all age groups. And even the elderly -- approximately 5 million out of the 32 million Americans aged 65 and older suffer from clinically defined depression, very often overlooked by the provider community, and conditions that certainly can be treated.

There are many, many other issues and myths associated with mental health. Tomorrow, when we release the radio address -- as Barry said, it's being recorded this evening -- you will hear the President and Mrs. Gore do a joint radio address on this subject, in which she is going to unveil an announcement specifically for -- excuse me, a brand-new national anti-stigma campaign that will be run by the Ad Council and the Surgeon General's Office.

She will be the honorary chair. The administrators of this anti-stigma campaign will be the Ad Council and Surgeon General Satcher. And this will be kicked off later this fall with a major multi-million dollar commitment to help dispel myths and also hopefully open doors to treatment and services for this population.

At the radio address, the President and Mrs. Gore, specifically, will be highlighting a series of 10 myths that help really highlight the myths versus realities of mental health. And later today, we will be -- actually, within an hour or two, I think we'll be able to release the press paper surrounding that radio address, in which those myths are highlighted, with specific backup on the realities that has been provided for us by a range of different sources.

So for that I think I'll close on the radio address.

MR. TOIV: Well, do Q and A, if they have any.

MR. JENNINGS: Oh, and if I have any Qs and As on the radio address, and then we'll go to the next issue.

END 1:57 P.M. EDT