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Rosalynn Carter remembered as an advocate for Sacramento mental health services

Rosalynn Carter remembered as an advocate for Sacramento mental health services
Rosalynn Carter remembered as an advocate for Sacramento mental health services 03:12

SACRAMENTO — The legacy of Rosalynn Carter is being celebrated by the Sacramento Children's Home. Director of Philanthropy Todd Koolakian reflected on a campaign stop made by the former first lady visiting the facility while advocating for federal funds to invest in improving mental health treatment.

"Rosalynn was a huge champion of mental health services and really brought a lot of attention to the need for funding those services," Koolakian said. "For her to come to the Sacramento Children's Home to bring awareness to our organization and continue to bring awareness throughout the remainder of her career in the spotlight was really important."

In a photo captured by the Sacramento Bee from that visit, Rosalynn holds a small child with Down syndrome who was receiving care from the Sacramento Children's Home.

"The father was wanting to be there because he knew of the important work that she had made championing mental health services," Koolakian said. "I think she was definitely ahead of her time, and it really is important that she started that conversation."

It's a conversation that people in the 1970s to 1980s simply were not having. Advocates say the stigma surrounding mental illness and treatment was reflected in the health practices that Rosalynn said lacked a community-based approach.

"She made an effort of exemplifying how mental health and physical health are almost as equally important, and they really are quite connected," Koonlakian said.

During the visit, Rosalynn also connected with the employees of the nonprofit organization, with one even cooking her dinner.

"One of our former staff members was selected to cook Mrs. Carter dinner, and so she did with Secret Service there with her supervising the process," Koolakian said.

In another instance, one employee gifted the first lady a mug from the gift shop at the Sacramento Children's Home.  

"She said, 'Thank you,' and then mentioned Jimmy enjoys mugs of hot cocoa, so this volunteer had said that afterward, she envisioned the President in the White House enjoying hot cocoa from one of the Sacramento Children's Home mugs," Koolakian said. "So yeah, I know that that visit touched staff and volunteers alike and was very special for both of them."

Mrs. Carter's visit was in an effort to secure federal funds for mental health services. To this day, the Sacramento Children's Home is offering those tools and programs to some of the most at risk youth in the region. On this Giving Tuesday, they remind the community that their work is made possible because of donations from the community.

"It's helping to strengthen our community. It's helping to make Sacramento a better place for all of us to live, so we appreciate the generosity," Koolakian said.

To donate to the various programs, visit the Sacramento Children's Home's website here.

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