NAMI Congratulates Massachusetts Senate On Passing Parity And Urges House To Do The Same

Statement by Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Apr 03 1998

The Massachusetts Senate rectified a great wrong on April 2nd by passing S-1877, "An Act Relative to Certain Health Care Benefits."

The bill passed unanimously by a vote of 38 to 0. S-1877 requires that insurance companies and health maintenance organizations provide mental health benefits under the same terms and conditions as for other medical conditions. The bill specifically includes, but is not limited to, benefits for adults with serious mental illness, and children with serious emotional disturbance.

S-1877 was sponsored by Senators Frederick E. Berry (D-Peabody), Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), Robert E. Travaglini (D-East Boston) and W. Paul White (D-Boston).

"We applaud the Massachusetts Senate for taking this step," says Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "For too long, people with severe mental illnesses in Massachusetts have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. The Senate this week has validated in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works."

"We also congratulate NAMI Massachusetts for its exemplary advocacy efforts," says Flynn. "NAMI Mass. president Pat Lawrence, executive director Barbara Cantrill, and all the NAMI Mass. members should be proud.

"We encourage the Mass. House to pass a parity bill as well," says Flynn. "This could be the year that the state of Massachusetts finally ends health insurance discrimination against people with serious mental illness."

Sixteen other states have already enacted laws that prohibit health insurance discrimination against people with mental illness: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont.

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 172,000 individual members and 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for nondiscriminatory and equitable federal and state policies; research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illnesses.