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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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  Governor Gray Davis Urged to Sign Mental Health Parity Bill to Redeem California as National Leader

Governor's Signature Will Make A Difference about Whether People Live or Die; With 27 State Laws Already Enacted, California Would Provide "Center of Gravity" for the Nation

Contacts:
Bob Carolla
703-516-7963
For Immediate Release
14 Sep 99

Arlington, VA. - The nation's largest grassroots organization for persons suffering from severe mental illnesses today advised Governor Gray Davis that California's mental health parity bill, AB 88, represents a "critical opportunity to redeem California as a leader" in setting public policy within the United States.

In a letter to the Governor Gray Davis, Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), noted that Gray's predecessor, former Governor Pete Wilson, twice vetoed mental health parity bills, yet 27 states-more than half-have enacted such laws, including eight states in 1999 alone.

"This national movement toward parity is strongly bipartisan in nature," Flynn observed. "Governor George W. Bush of Texas signed a parity law in 1997, and the Clinton Administration currently is moving to require parity in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP), while Congress considers expansion of the 1996 federal law. Now is the time for California to play a decisive role in that movement."

Flynn called AB 88 a "moderate, middle-ground proposal" similar to laws enacted earlier this year in New Jersey and Virginia and signed into law by Republican governors, because they focus on the most severe mental illnesses. "Your signature on California's bill will establish clearly a center of gravity for the rest of the nation on the parity issue", she advised.

Noting the high success rate of treatment for mental illnesses-if people can get it-Flynn also told Davis that because of the higher risk of suicides when treatment is not provided, his signature on the bill "will make a difference between whether or not some people live or die." She urged him to "reject the extremism of those who merely oppose the bill and ask for a veto" and to instead help Californians who struggle with mental illnesses "build hope for the future."


September 14, 1999


The Honorable Gray Davis
Governor
State of California
Fax: 916-445-4633

Dear Governor Davis:

As the nation's largest grassroots organization dedicated to helping persons with severe mental illnesses, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) asks that you help make history by signing Assembly Bill (AB) 88 into law.

AB 88 will end insurance discrimination against millions of Californians and require health insurance plans to cover severe mental illnesses just like other physical illnesses. It also will strike a blow against stigma, which still prevents too many people from seeking treatment they desperately need. It is especially important to realize that treatment indeed works---the treatment success rates for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, for example, are all higher than that for heart disease---but only if a person can get it. Because of higher risks of suicide when treatment is not available, you can be sure that your signature on the bill will make a difference between whether or not some people live or die.

AB 88 also represents a critical opportunity to redeem California as a leader in setting public policy within the nation. Your predecessor twice vetoed mental healthy parity bills. Yet 27 states have enacted parity laws; eight in 1999 alone. This national movement toward parity is strongly bipartisan in nature. Governor George W. Bush of Texas signed a parity law in 1997, and the Clinton Administration currently is moving to require parity in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP), while Congress is considering expansion of the 1996 federal law. Now is the time for California to play a decisive role in that movement. With its focus on the most severe mental illness, AB 88 represents a moderate, middle-ground proposal, similar to laws enacted this year in New Jersey and Virginia and signed into law by Republican governors. Your signature on California's law will establish clearly the center of gravity for the rest of nation on the parity issue.

We ask you to reject the extremism of those who merely oppose the bill and ask for a veto. Please stand with Californians who struggle against mental illness, and with their families, to build hope for the future.

Sincerely,

Laurie Flynn
Executive Director


 

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