Press Releases

Montana Advocate Honored Nationally For Fighting Discrimination Against People With Mental Illness

NAMI Wolf Award Given To Wesley Alcorn Of Helena

Jul 18 1998

Washington, D.C. - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today honored Wesley Alcorn of Helena, Montana, for his tenacious advocacy to improve the lives of individuals with serious brain disorders.

Alcorn, 40, of Helena, Montana, has dedicated his life to ending injustices toward people with severe mental illnesses who struggle each day to reclaim full productive lives. His is a story of profound courage to overcome extreme odds since he personally knows the stigma and discrimination that is uniquely the experience of someone with a serious brain disorder.

In presenting the NAMI Wolf Award at NAMI’s annual convention, E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., a leading research psychiatrist and Director of the Stanley Research Institute, said, “Wesley Alcorn’s indefatigable fight to eliminate inferior services for individuals with severe psychiatric disorders inspires us all. He doesn’t just decry what is wrong, he acts with full conviction to correct it.”

Alcorn, who currently serves as President of the NAMI Consumer Council, played a major role in exposing the misuse of Medicaid funds and patient abuse and neglect by the regional community mental health center headquartered in Helena, and has been involved in publicizing the shortcomings of Montana’s behavioral healthcare managed care system. Alcorn also monitored and publicized the failure of the federally-funded Montana Advocacy Program to do its job of protecting and advocating for individuals with severe psychiatric disorders.

“In all these activities, Mr. Alcorn has acted with disregard for the personal consequences to himself, and has earned the respect of consumers of psychiatric services and their families nationwide,” said Torrey.

In accepting this honor, Alcorn said, “We can no longer be satisfied or stay silent when literally millions suffer so very needlessly. We can no longer be satisfied or stay silent when the crumbs of incrementalism are offered up as evidence of progress—while things continue to deteriorate. We can no longer be satisfied or stay silent in the face of rank discrimination in the insurance industry, and we can no longer be satisfied or stay silent while our sickest, most vulnerable and defenseless individuals ride a new "ship of fools"—an inexorable march to homelessness, jails and prisons—or worse.”

Among his many accomplishments, Alcorn also has worked diligently to strengthen the NAMI Consumer Council, encouraging consumers to fully participate in NAMI programs, advocacy, and reform efforts. Well known for taking on the tough issues and for helping groups and individuals with their problems, Alcorn is much in demand for his advice and support, and has been invited to speak to advocacy groups in more than 30 states.

“We must validate and defend all consumers as possessing intrinsic value, dignity and worth as Children of God, and citizens of the United States,” said Alcorn. “If we don't, no one else will. The time to act is now."

The NAMI Wolf Award has been given annually since 1993 to advocates who are neither timid nor concerned about being politically correct, courageous trail blazers who demand that the mental healthcare system provide better services to individuals with severe psychiatric disorders. Nothing short of that goal will satisfy them.