NAMI Salutes South Dakota Governor And State Lawmakers For Ending Discrimination Against Mental Illness

Mar 16 1998

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today praised South Dakota Governor, William J. Janklow and state lawmakers for standing up to stigma and ending insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses.

HB 1262, which was enacted into law by the Governor during a signing ceremony on March 13, requires insurance companies to offer medical coverage for biological brain disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, equal to that provided for similarly debilitating physical illnesses.

"We applaud Governor Janklow and the state legislature for putting the people of South Dakota first," said Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "These courageous state leaders have validated in legislation what researchers have proven in science -- mental illnesses are physical disorders of the brain that are highly treatable."

Flynn singled out Representative Deb Fischer-Clemens (D-Mitchell) and Senator Barbara Everist (R-Sioux Falls), principal sponsors of the legislation, for their legislative skill and steadfast dedication. She also congratulated members of the South Dakota Alliance for the Mentally Ill and their strong coalition for their tireless efforts in bringing about this momentous change. "This is a shining example of extraordinary grassroots advocacy and education making a difference in people's lives," said Flynn.

South Dakota joins fifteen states currently on the books as intolerant of insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses, including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont.

With more than 172,000 members, NAMI is the nation's leading grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.