Fax from Albany
October 10, 2003
Board Members, Affiliate Executive Directors, Interested Parties
Joseph A. Glazer, Esq., President/CEO
(518) 434-0439 ext. 20
Action on Parity Targeted for Anniversary of
Grassroots Mobilization Needed to Pass Bill!
Despite the broad support the Senator Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable
Treatment Act enjoys in Congress, momentum on the legislation has slowed
in both chambers. But while committee chairmen in the Senate and House
have taken no action to move the Wellstone bill, it is not too late for
Congress to take up and pass mental health parity legislation, and the
bill’s lead sponsors and advocates, including NMHA, continue to
press for action.
NMHA is also working with Senator Wellstone’s son David and Wellstone
Action, the foundation he and his brother established. As we near the
anniversary of the October 25, 2002, plane crash that took the lives of
Paul and Sheila Wellstone, we are jointly calling on people across the
country to mount a grassroots campaign to achieve the simple goal set
by the late senator and Pete Domenici: to end discrimination in health
insurance against people with mental illness. As David Wellstone has told
us, “There could be no more fitting memorial to my mother and father
than the passage of legislation that would end discrimination against
those with mental illness.”
In the Senate, the Wellstone Act, S. 486, introduced by Sens. Pete Domenici,
R-N.M., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., has 67 cosponsors. The companion House
bill, H.R. 953, introduced by Reps. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Jim Ramstad,
R-Minn., has 244 supporters (including 42 Republicans). More than 270
national organizations support the legislation. With the broad support
already in place, a national grassroots mobilization effort can awaken
leaders to the imperatives of passing this critical legislation.
- Call the toll-free Parity Hotline, 1-866-PARITY4 (1-866-727-4894),
to contact your senators and representative to urge passage of mental
health parity legislation before Congress adjourns. The Parity Hotline
reaches the Capitol Switchboard, which can connect callers to their
Members of Congress. Alternatively, contact one of the state offices
of your senators and a district office of your representative.
- FAX letters urging passage of parity legislation to your senators
and representative. See the sample letter below.
Congress approaches the end of this session, legislators are focused primarily
on passing appropriations bills and on a handful of others that the Bush
Administration and the Senate and House majority leadership consider top
priorities. Although the issue of mental health parity is not now among
those priorities, with sufficient public outcry it can be. Legislators
must hear from their constituents at this critical moment, especially
those who may have special influence on this issue. That is why it is
particularly important that large numbers of constituents of the following
members call AND write to:
the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; and Senator
Judd Gregg, R-N.H.
the House of Representatives, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; Majority
Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas; and Reps. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Billy Tauzin,
R-La.; John Boehner, R-Ohio; Bill Thomas, R-Calif.; Mike Bilirakis,
R-Fla.; Sam Johnson, R-Texas; and Nancy Johnson, R-Conn.; and the following
physician members, Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky.; Dave Weldon, R-Fla.; and Michael
[ask for, and make the following points with the “Health Legislative
Assistant for the member of Congress]:
am calling to urge that Representative [or Senator] __________ make passage
of mental health parity legislation (S. 486 in the Senate and H.R. 953
in the House) a top priority before Congress adjourns this year.
day families with “good health coverage” discover that loved
ones who have mental illnesses can’t get needed care because their
insurance sets strict limits on mental health treatment. This bill will
end that discrimination.
barriers to needed mental health treatment do enormous harm to families…and
to our economy. Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability
and premature death in our country. But these restrictive insurance practices
– which apply only to mental disorders – cause illnesses to
go untreated and worsen. Tragically, this leads to unemployment, homelessness,
and even suicide. Untreated mental illness also costs our economy about
$80 billion per year.
health parity legislation is a fair and affordable solution that has broad
bipartisan support. It will save lives and families.
must not let another year go by without passing the Paul Wellstone Mental
Health Equitable Treatment Act.”
Sample letter on parity:
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
I am writing to urge Congress to take up and pass now the Senator Paul
Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act, legislation to end blatant
and widespread discrimination against people with mental illness.
illness is the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality
in the United States. Yet every day families with “good health coverage”
discover that their loved ones who have mental illnesses cannot get needed
care because their insurance sets strict limits on mental health treatment
– like ending further coverage after a limited number of treatment
sessions – but imposes no such limits on treating any other illness.
practices are not only unfair, they’re irrational. Mental illnesses
are reliably diagnosed and for virtually every mental disorder, there
is a range of treatments and services that have been shown to be effective.
insurers who erect these barriers to medically necessary mental health
treatment inflict enormous harm on American families…and on our
economy. These discriminatory practices – which are applied only
to mental disorders – cause illnesses to go untreated and worsen.
Tragically, this lack of care leads all too often to unemployment, broken
homes, school failure, and even suicide. Untreated mental illness also
costs our economy about $80 billion each year -- in lost productivity,
sick leave, and unemployment.
families need a solution NOW. The solution is bipartisan legislation that
would require simple parity between mental health benefits and the benefits
provided to treat any other illness or injury. This simple, fair step
will save lives and families.
studies have shown, mental health parity legislation will not lead to
a significant increase in insurance premiums or in the number of uninsured
Americans. But the costs of NOT enacting parity are high, and will fall
most heavily on taxpayer-funded public programs, our economy, and the
well-being of American families and their communities.
make passage of a strong mental health parity bill a top priority before
Congress adjourns this year.
Letter to the Editor
Watertown Daily Times, September 25, 2003
someone interested in this legislation on many levels, I am writing to
raise awareness of, and make my support for, Timothy's Law, now before
the state Senate.
Law would assure parity in insurance coverage for mental health treatment
with that of physical illnesses. This parity could quite literally save
lives, as evidenced by the suicide of Timothy O'Clair, the young teenager
the bill is named after. He died as a direct result of not having coverage
for his treatment.
so many Americans, and New Yorkers in particular, having no, or inadequate,
health insurance, Timothy's sad story could be that of any of ours. I
know that I am very fortunate to have coverage of my prescriptions and
some mental health treatment. However, the social safety net is getting
more frayed all of the time.
New York is to live up to its responsibility to all of its citizens and
truly "leave no children behind," let's make sure the tools
to live healthy, productive, lives are available.
let Sen. James Wright know that this type of protection is important.
Needed in Mental Health Treatment. Letter to the Editor
Buffalo News, October 5, 2003
50 percent of adults with mental illness receive treatment and counseling,
according to the president's New Freedom Commission Report on Mental Health.
The surgeon general reports that one in five Americans, including children,
will need behavioral health treatment this year. People with mental health
disorders need access to treatment, support and recovery-oriented rehabilitative
services that are culturally sensitive and include families.
are revamping systems to respond immediately and ensure access to appropriate
services. However, providers cannot address issues of access without addressing
payment and insurance coverage. In New York State, coverage for mental
health treatment services is woefully inadequate and inconsistent with
coverage for other medical care.
Timothy's Law, a parity insurance bill before the State Senate, is named
for a 12-year-old boy who committed suicide because his family could not
afford to get him the help he needed.
issues are complicated. Simply illustrated, individuals with private insurance
must pay up to 50 percent of fees for psychiatric and counseling services.
This could mean several hundred dollars per month in co-pays. Very few
working adults in Western New York can afford these fees. Consumers often
ration their own treatment, using services only when they feel they must.
is not a reasonable approach to disease management. Would we require or
accept this system for people with heart disease or cancer?
must be passed so that insurance companies cover mental health treatment
consistent with other diseases.
Horizon Health Services
ill inmate care probed.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 8, 2003
state prison system is poorly equipped to handle mentally ill prisoners
who are segregated for disciplinary reasons, inmate advocates said Tuesday
at a special joint hearing in Rochester of two state Assembly committees.
review of disciplinary hearings shows increasing numbers of inmates being
subject to the discipline process for behavior which is the product of
their serious mental illness,” said Betsy Sterling, associate director
of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.
bill pending in the Assembly would require the Department of Correctional
Services to create alternative confinement for mentally ill inmates designated
for solitary confinement.
state is facing several lawsuits related to its treatment of mentally
Jeffrion Aubrey, D-Queens, is a sponsor of the bill that would require
corrections officials to handle mentally ill inmates differently. Such
inmates would get treatment that helps them make the transition better
when they return to their communities, Aubrey said.
Porter, who is coordinator of the Judicial Process Commission in Rochester,
said, “Effectively treating this population may mean fewer murders
next time, we remain,
Working to ensure available and accessible
mental health services for all New Yorkers