Senators Propose End to Children's Mental Health Discrimination
Law Would Improve Access to Needed Mental Health Services Under SCHIP
Contact: Jason Halal, (703) 797-1943 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, VA (May 8, 2007) - Legislation introduced today in the United States Senate would end discriminatory treatment of mental health care under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by prohibiting states from setting lower limits on coverage of mental health and substance abuse services than they set for other health care services. Mental Health America commends the bill's sponsors, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) for their leadership on this issue and calls for swift enactment of the "Children's Mental Health Parity Act" as part of SCHIP reauthorization.
"Many state SCHIP plans impose restrictive limits on mental health services - not based on children's medical needs or on practitioners' best practice guidelines." said David Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "In fact, low-income children have much higher rates of mental health disorders, but only about 40 percent of states offer full coverage of necessary services for children with complex mental health needs. This legislation would end the inequality by improving access to appropriate mental health services for the many low-income children at risk."
The "Children's Mental Health Parity Act" would prohibit unfair limits on mental health care in SCHIP plans by directing that any financial requirements or treatment limitations that apply to mental health or substance abuse services must be no more restrictive than the financial requirements or treatment limits that apply to other medical services. The bill would also eliminate a harmful provision in current law that authorizes states to lower the amount of mental health coverage they provide to children in SCHIP down to 75 percent of the coverage provided in the benchmark plans listed in the statute as models for states to use in developing their SCHIP plans.
Mental health care is a key component of the range of services that children need for healthy development. Mental Health America and its national network of more than 320 affiliates look forward to working with Senators Kerry, Smith, Kennedy, and Domenici towards enactment of this important legislation. As Congress begins to work on reauthorizing SCHIP, arbitrary and harmful limits on mental health care must be prohibited in this vital program.
Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping ALL people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 320 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation - everyday and in times of crisis.