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Financial Bailout Bill Includes Victory For Mental Health Care

October 13, 2008

Nashville, TN – Look more closely at the massive Wall Street bailout bill and you'll find what consumer advocates are calling a victory for mental health care. Tucked into the legislation is the "Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act," which requires insurance companies to cover treatment for mental illness and alcohol and drug addiction to the same extent as for other illnesses. This means no special coverage limits, different deductibles, or higher co-pay amounts.

What it also means is that people with mental illnesses can now get the treatment they need to live productive lives, says Sita Diehl, with the Tennessee chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"Finally, the law is recognizing what medical science has known for 40 years - that mental illnesses are medical disorders of the brain, which is a physical organ."

Mental health consumers applaud the bill as a way to help people get treatment and services. Lorre Leon Mendelson is a person with psychiatric diagnoses, she hopes it will also help to clear up misconceptions about mental illness.

"It will affect many people who - because of the stigma, the discrimination, the prejudice - have not gotten the services they need. Hopefully, this will encourage them to do that."

Insurance companies and employers have voiced concern that their costs will increase. But some states already require such parity and, Diehl says, they've seen only nominal increases.

Barbara Dab/Steve Powers, Public News Service - TN