DBSA e-Update August 2007: Advocacy
Key Mental Health Legislation
This year’s Congressional session has seen an unprecedented level of activity on mental health issues. More importantly, grassroots support of these issues will likely be needed in the weeks ahead, when Congress returns from its four-week recess. Below is a recap of some of this year’s key mental health legislation.
Mental Health Parity
For the past five years, mental health advocates have worked diligently, and faced great disappointment, trying to pass Mental Health Parity. This legislation would ensure that individuals living with a mental illness receive the same level of insurance coverage as those with a physical illness, including parity for both treatment limits and out-of-pocket costs (like co-payments and deductibles).
A modified version of the House bill was passed in July and, in February, a bipartisan group of senators passed legislation that would finally end insurance coverage discrimination between physical and mental illnesses. The legislation still needs to pass in the full Senate. Currently, sponsors of the Senate bill are working to resolve concerns by many members about the legislation’s preemption of state parity laws already in place.
Mental illness is jut like any other medical illness; treatment is successful and cost-effective. Click here to send a letter now to pass this important legislation.
The Melanie Stokes Postpartum Depression and the MOTHERS Acts
This legislation would ensure that new mothers and their families are educated about postpartum depression, screened for symptoms and provided with essential services. The PPD legislation has languished in Congress for the past four years but this year, Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), sponsor of the legislation, personally asked for DBSA’s help. Although it has a House subcommittee’s approval, the bill still needs to approval by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee before it can be voted on in the House of Representatives.
Since Congress is in recess until after Labor Day, it is crucial that this committee act quickly in September for this bill to pass this year. Click here to send a letter now to your legislators about this legislation.
The Veterans’ Health Care Improvement Act of 2007
This legislation is designed to help veterans readjust to civilian life and to make funding available to repair or replace VA facilities that provide care for homeless veterans. Most importantly, this bill would provide funding for peer-to-peer services, a program that is a proven method in overcoming the significant barriers vets face in obtaining successful treatment. DBSA has already been working with the VA in various parts of the country to implement this program and hopes that the VA will make funding available to continue these efforts nationwide. Recently, DBSA President Sue Bergeson testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on this very issue. (Click here to read her testimony.)
To send a letter now asking for the resources to continue peer-to-peer services nationwide, click here.
Keeping Families Together Act, KFTA
This act will allocate more than $45 million to provide state mental health and support services for families in danger of losing their children. It is designed to increase the availability of home- and community-based services, as well as improve collaboration among agencies that serve children with mental health needs, including education, child welfare and juvenile justice. Far too often, in order to get essential mental health services for their child, caring parents must make the choice of custody relinquishmentgiving their child up to the stateso that the child will qualify for care. State agencies consistently hear from families that seek help for their children, but are offered none.
Click here to send a letter now asking for this assistance for families.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
Over the past 10 years, SCHIP has provided health coverage to millions of children who would otherwise have been uninsured. However, nine million children are still uninsured, and millions more are underinsured. Congress is poised to reauthorize this program that expires at the end of September. Public support for the program has received a bipartisan push in Congress to increase SCHIP’s funding by $35 billion over the next five years. Most children covered live with families earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level and do not qualify for Medicaid. The proposed funding increase is designated to cover 3.3 million more children than the 6.6 million who already have SCHIP insurance.
Click here to send a letter asking Congress to expand and improve the SCHIP program.