National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Arlington, VA - On Thursday, June 6 more than 2,000 supporters of mental health parity gathered in Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to act to end insurance discrimination against individuals with mental illness and their families. Among the crowd gathered on Capitol Hill were nearly 1,800 NAMI advocates calling on Congress to act this year to pass federal parity legislation. Among the NAMI state organizations represented at the rally were Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Many NAMI advocates boarded buses from as far way as Erie, PA and Zanesville, OH and rode all night to be in Washington for the rally. Despite very hot and humid conditions, many NAMI advocates visited with their members of Congress after the rally to urge support for parity.
Congressional Sponsors Call for "Parity Now"
Addressing the rally were the chief congressional sponsors of parity legislation (S 543/HR 4066): Senators Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Representatives Marge Roukema (R-NJ) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). All four urged continued grassroots support for fair and equitable insurance coverage for mental illness and groups supporting parity. Representative Roukema noted that parity legislation is now supported by nearly two-thirds of the Senate, over half the House and by President Bush. Representative Kennedy added that there is no excuse for Congress not to pass parity this year. Senator Wellstone noted that "it is unacceptable that health plans are allowed to discriminate against mental illness treatment in the year 2002 - we have come too far as a nation to allow this to continue." Finally, Senator Domenici added that illnesses of the brain are just like illnesses affecting any other organ of the body and their treatment should be covered the same way.
Also speaking at yesterday's rally in Washington was NAMI President Jim McNulty. A copy of his statement is included below. Photographs from the rally have also been posted to the NAMI Web site.
Is Your Member of Congress Supporting Parity?
All NAMI advocates are urged to click on the following links to determine whether or not their senators or House member are cosponsoring S 543 or HR 4066: thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:HR04066:@@@P and thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:SN00543:@@@P. Members of Congress that are already cosponsors need to be thanked. Those who are not yet cosponsors need to be urged to sign on as soon as possible. All members of Congress can be reached by calling this toll-free parity number at 1-866-PARITY4 (1-866-727-4894) or by email at Write to Congress.