NAMI Applauds Senate Committee for Unanimous Approval of Parity Bill

Statement by Jim McNulty, NAMI Board President

Aug 01 2001

Today's action by the Senate Committee on Health, Employment, Labor & Pensions (HELP), recommending S.543, the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act of 2001 unanimously to the full Senate represents an important step forward to strengthen existing law and end discrimination in insurance coverage.

It is a victory for children and adults with mental illnesses. It is a victory for employers whose overall productivity is adversely affected by untreated mental illness. It is a victory for bipartisanship in the nation's capital.

NAMI is grateful to Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the committee, as well as the ranking minority member, Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), who have taken an interest in the legislation. We are especially grateful for the leadership of Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN) in sponsoring the bill, as well as that of the 50 other Senators who are co-sponsors.

Let one fact be clear: a clear majority of the United States Senates today is supporting the legislation. If the bill becomes law, it will cover the full range of mental illnesses, including major depression, bipolar disorder (manic-depression), schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders, and will strengthen the 1996 law by prohibiting unequal limits on annual or lifetime mental health benefits, inpatient hospital days, outpatient visits, and out-of-pocket expenses.

I congratulate NAMI members whose grassroots education and contacts with lawmakers made today's committee action possible. During the weeks since NAMI's national convention earlier this month, nearly ten Senators have joined in co-sponsoring S.543. They include Democrats and Republicans. With one out of every five Americans affected by mental illness in some way, this legislation touches all of us. It will help individuals and families. It will help people get treatment when they need it and preserve hope for recoveries.