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Children's Advocates Seek Expanded Mental Health Coverage

January 14, 2008

Buffalo, NY - Children's health advocates are watching part two of Governor Eliot Spitzer's State of the State address closely today, for further details on his proposal for universal children's coverage in state-backed health insurance plans. The speech is aimed at New York's "North Country," where families often have to travel great distances for a child to receive mental health care. Ruth Foster, with the group Families Together in New York State, says community-based access to such care is essential.

"Having mental health care covered by health insurance means families can access their health care right from their main doctor and get mental health coverage, as well as regular. We don't need children having to travel long distances to see a psychiatrist or other provider."

Foster says the need for children's mental health coverage is an issue that affects all New Yorkers, no matter where in the state they reside.

"About 10 percent of children will have a mental health or addictive disorder that will cause impairment in their activities. With that in mind, health care must include mental health coverage, to make sure the children are completely healthy."

Families Together hopes Spitzer's new proposal will embody the commitment to children's mental health contained in year-old "Timothy's Law," which places mental health coverage on an equal par with physical health coverage in private insurance policies.

"We just want to make sure that that same coverage that's available through 'Timothy's Law' is available through the health coverage that the Governor is proposing for children in this state."

Foster says childhood disorders, such as depression after a parental loss, can sometimes even culminate in suicide, or force parents into relinquishing custody of their child to a state institution in order to get the treatment required.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY