February 27, 2004

Insurance Parity and Family Education

Crusade for [health insurance coverage for] mentally ill faces tough opposition (Central Ohio Newspaper)

"if your brain produces too much of a chemical called dopamine, you get Parkinson's disease, a [disease that is considered a] physical illness.

"If you suffer from Parkinson's disease, you are entitled to all of the [insurance] benefits contained in that policy -- millions of dollars in coverage, no limit to the visits to the physician," Olman said.

But if your body creates too little dopamine, it results in schizophrenia.

"Schizophrenia is considered a mental illness, and because of that, you are going to find you are limited in the number of visits you have to the doctor." Olman said. "You'll have a higher deductible. And in most cases you'll be limited to a maximum of $10,000 per year in total coverage.

"That is discrimination no matter how you shake it out."

Sen. Domenici Discusses the Realities of Mental Illness (Georgetown University Newspaper)

Senator Domenici continues to work to get improved treatment for people with serious mental illnesses. We hope that he continues to work and educate politicians to understand these diseases better!

The story states "When the senator encountered mental illness in his own family, the issue became a pressing concern for him personally.

?After I discovered mental illness, I found something very, very wrong in our great land,? he said.

?When people started writing insurance policies, the problem was, from the very beginning, that mental illness was not included,? he said. ?It wasn?t included because people didn?t realize it was a disease.?

Domenici is currently sponsoring the Senator Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act. The plan would provide for parity in group insurance coverage between mental illnesses and traditional diseases.

?There are a number of people who are against the bill because it tells insurance companies they have to cover mental illnesses,? Domenici said. ?Some say it will cost too much but in our great country there are some things you have to do.?

?There?s nothing worse than a piece of society that?s ill but not covered by insurance,? he said. ?If we can get this passed, they will be covered.?

In addition to speaking about necessary legislation, Domenici also discussed practical ways to help people suffering from mental illness.

?We all have a personal responsibility to ourselves not to be afraid or scared,? he said. ?We must help our neighbors if they?re having problems, encourage them, and not let them be afraid of going to the doctor.?

Washington State OKs bill equalizing coverage for mental illness

Good news - people are finally starting to recognize that there is no reason why schizophrenia should be treated (from a medical insurance perspective) any differently than Alzheimers or heart disease. This report states that "The state House of Representatives approved a bill late Friday that requires health insurers to cover mental health conditions the same way they cover surgical and other medical procedures and medications.

The bill, which passed on a 64-33 bipartisan vote, now goes to the Senate, which passed more expanded versions of the mental health parity bill in past years. That raises hope that House Bill 1828, which exempts small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, could pass into law this year, said Rep. Shay Schual-Berke, D-Normandy Park, the bill's sponsor.

"This is not a 'message' bill," Schual-Berke said after the vote, noting that 33 states have some form of mental health parity law on the books. "It is a very doable bill. It is phased in over five years."

Free Classes for Families of the Mentally Ill Available from NAMI Affiliates
We highly encourage everyone to look into attending these classes if you haven't already. Contact your local NAMI office for details (or see www.nami.org).

Family and friends of people who have mental illness can attend a free education course to help them learn more about their loved one's struggles and how to find help.

The Portage County Family to Family Education Program starts next Tuesday and will be every Tuesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. for 12 weeks. The free course will be at the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County, 1640 Franklin Ave., Kent.

The program, sponsored by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Portage County and the Mental Health & Recovery Board, is open to anyone who has a family member or friend with schizophrenia, bipolar disease, clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, such as phobias, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Homelessness and Mental Illness - A downward spiral to the street (San Francisco Chronicle).

The Chronicle series on homelessness ("Shame of the City," Nov. 30- Dec. 4) forcefully and effectively reported how homeless people live and die on the streets of San Francisco. But the individual portraits are just the tip of the iceberg.

The series underestimated the extent of mental illness among the city's homeless population. Unlike some of the authors' portraits, the vast majority of mentally ill people are not choosing to be homeless, nor are they stubbornly resisting help. The cold fact is that there is very little help available. People with serious mental illness are particularly vulnerable to becoming homeless. Debilitating symptoms, lack of social supports, ostracism from society and extreme poverty underlie this vulnerability. "

The story goes on to note: "As The Chronicle series noted, successful experiments in several cities including San Francisco have convincingly demonstrated that homeless people with mental illness can be helped with a combination of targeted services. The crucial ingredients include:

-- diagnosis and treatment of their symptoms and substance abuse;

-- a specialized kind of "education" that helps them improve their abilities to live in the world and in some cases to work;

-- supportive housing and a range of social services; and

-- a long-term intensive relationship with trained personnel who are committed and able to trade on the trust they develop with their patients to persuade them to take medication. "

Posted by szadmin at February 27, 2004 07:32 AM

More Information on Schizophrenia Advocacy


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