Glenn Close Lobbies for Mental Health Legislation

The actress is becoming a regular on Capitol Hill.

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Award-winning actress and mental health advocate Glenn Close speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, urging senators to pass the Excellence in Mental Health Act.
Actress Glenn Close urges lawmakers to support legislation that would expand access to mental health treatment and improve available care during a visit to Washington, Wednesday.

Glenn Close popped through Washington Wednesday to add a little star power to a piece of legislation, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a subject near and dear to her heart. Close, who lobbies Washington often on mental health issues, has a sister with bipolar disorder and a nephew with a mix of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., are leading the bipartisan charge for the bill, which would allow services at community mental health providers (as long as those providers meet certain government standards) be eligible for Medicaid reimbursements.

Close's goal, besides getting this particular legislation passed, is helping rid the world of the stigma associated with mental illness.

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"The truth is the stigma is huge, still," Close told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference. "You can change your attitude, but you might still say, 'yes, I understand about mental illness, but no, I don't want my son to date someone who has bipolar disorder.'"

Close experienced that phenomenon in her own family.

"So my nephew is now married. He met this girl Meg and she went to her parents and said I want to date this young man who has schizophrenia," Close recounted, saying that the parents were, at first, "horrified."

"And I said, 'what happens next?' And she said, 'they met him,'" Close said of her conversation with her now niece-in-law.

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"And I think that story needs to be repeated across the country," Close continued.

Last week, a version of the bill passed as an amendment in the Senate Finance Committee and the senators hoped that a version of the law would be taken up in the Senate in February or March.

Until more gets done, Close vowed to stick close to the Capitol, a place she's optimistic can get its act together.

"There is a feeling that people are just waiting for permission to start the conversation," she said. "And I think if they understand that their representatives in Washington actually hear them and care about what they are going through on a day to day basis and will help their communities, I think that is going to change the climate and the landscape of mental health in this country."

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