Presidential Candidate Gore Unveils Mental Health Reform Proposal - Endorses Parity For Children
Included below is NAMI's statement applauding the Vice President's proposals and calling on leaders in Congress for bipartisan action this year on parity legislation - specifically, the Domenici-Wellstone parity bill (S 796).
The full text of the Gore campaign's statement, as well as a webcast of his speech can be found at the campaign's website at http://www.algore2000.com/briefingroom/releases/pr_0531_nat_1.html
What is in Candidate Gore's Mental Health Agenda
The childrens' parity proposal is the centerpiece of the Vice President's initiative. According to the Vice President's staff, this proposal is meant to build on the progress already made toward ending insurance discrimination including: a) the 31 state parity laws, b) the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act (parity for annual and lifetime dollar limits only), and c) President's Clinton's Executive Order requiring parity for all federal employees. However, the Gore proposal does not include endorsement of S 796, Senator Domenici and Senator Wellstone's parity bill that now has 28 bipartisan Senate cosponsors.
S 796 calls for full parity for all of the most severe and disabling mental illness, including many of the most prevalent diagnoses among children and adolescents such as bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, autism, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, S 796 requires parity coverage for adolescent onset schizophrenia. As NAMI's statement on the Gore initiative makes clear, S 796 is the most promising legislative vehicle in 2000 for achieving full parity and an end to insurance discrimination.
Candidate Gore's initiative also includes an unspecified proposal to address the problem of families having to relinquish custody of their children with severe mental illness in order to qualify them for public programs such as Medicaid, in order access treatment residential care settings. This issue was first highlighted in NAMI's 1999 report "Families on the Brink" which can be viewed at http://www.nami.org/youth/brinktoc.html The Vice President noted that increasing intensive community-based services and expanding coverage for children will help many families avoid the painful choices they must often make to access treatment for their children. At the same time, the Vice President stopped short of specifically endorsing legislation drafted by Senators Grassley and Kennedy - the Family Opportunity Act (S 2274) - that would allow states to set up Medicaid buy-in programs that permit parents to qualify their children for services without having to go into poverty, or give up custody. NAMI has enthusiastically endorsed S 2274.
A number of other initiatives in the Gore proposal clarify protections for families in existing laws or previous Clinton Administration proposals. For example, candidate Gore proposes to clarify eligibility for the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to ensure that family members can take unpaid time off from work (limited to 12 weeks), without losing their job, to care for a relative suffering from mental illness. Gore has proposed to lower the existing small business exemption in the FMLA from 50 to 25 workers. The Vice President also proposes to clarify eligibility for the Clinton Administration's $3,000 long-term care tax credit to include individuals caring for a relative with severe mental illness at home.
Beyond the childrens' parity proposal, there are a number of provisions in the Gore initiative that NAMI has championed in recent years including:
NAMI Press Release: NAMI Applauds Vice-President Gore's Mental Health Initiative
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