The New Mexico branch of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) will present Sen. Mary Kay Papen with the 2010 Domenici Family Award at a ceremony on Saturday in Albuquerque. In making the award NAMI cites Sen. Papen's well-known record for enhancing the lives of those living with mental illnesses. "Sen. Papen has taken the suffering she has experienced as the family member of an individual with a mental illness, an turned that suffering into a powerful voice as a community and legislative mental health advocate."
This is a well deserved award. Those who know Sen. Papen are aware of her deep commitment to improving what she terms a "broken system" of assistance for mental illness in New Mexico. At a funeral service two weeks ago (see below, Michael Madrid, RIP), asked to speak to the crowd, she said, among other things, "Michael, the state of New Mexico failed you," referring to the labyrinthine inept patchwork of underfunded institutions that often fail to provide adequate help to persons with mental illnesses or their families.
Senator Papen is one of eight members of a coalition of Democrats who elected Sen. Tim Jennings President Pro Tem of the Senate, with Republican support. With his election a good deal of political power in the Senate has come to reside in Senators from Southern New Mexico, often a neglected area of the state.