Former Representative Patrick J. Kennedy in cooperation with Mental Health America of Los Angeles, the Betty Ford Center, the California Social Worker Association, the International Bipolar Foundation, the Parity Implementation Coalition and numerous local organizations, will host a Congressional Forum to hear testimony on local, state and federal efforts to equalize mental health and addiction benefits with other health care benefits, referred to as parity. The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Chicago School’s Los Angeles campus, 617, W. 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Individuals and families denied coverage for mental health and/or addiction treatment are expected to call on federal regulators to issue final regulations to prevent persistent and ongoing insurance discrimination against those needing behavioral health benefits. In Los Angeles County alone, it is estimated that more than 500,000 individuals suffer from a serious mental or emotional disorder.
The hearing will focus on the implementation and enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Local community members will testify on the barriers that they continue to face in accessing mental health care and addiction treatment through their health insurance - barriers they do not encounter with other forms of health care. Local providers and federal, state and local experts in the mental health and addiction community will also testify.
“A majority of our veterans will receive their care through the private insurance system instead of just the VA, and this is added reason for proper implementation of parity for our patriots 'signature' wounds of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Patrick J. Kennedy, former member of Congress and Lead Sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. “I am dedicated to seeking full implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and look forward to adding my voice to the voices of Angelenos touched by this disease.”
“We commend and support Representative Kennedy and Congressional leadership for putting pressure on federal regulators to finalize this law,” said Dr. Michele Nealon-Woods, president of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “Only when there is equity in mental health treatment and costs can we hope to bring the illness out of the shadows and encourage families to seek care. We are at the forefront of training the next generation of multi-cultural mental health experts to meet the growing demand for these services.”
Mental health and addiction disorders are staggering in their scope. Approximately 54 million Americans live with mental illness, and 26 million with addictions, with a large number experiencing co-occurring mental illnesses and addictions. Yet many Americans with employer-sponsored health plans include mental health and addiction benefits with more expensive financial requirements (such as copayments and deductibles), more restrictive treatment limitations (such as limits on the number of covered outpatient visits or days in the hospital, more stringent process for medical reviews of treatment), or excluded diagnoses.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires equality between insurance coverage for medical/surgical treatment and mental health/substance abuse treatment. The regulations require health insurers to ensure that financial requirements (deductibles, co-pays, etc.) and treatment limitations (visit limitations, medical review procedures) for mental health and substance abuse treatment are no more restrictive than requirements or limitations that are applied to medical/surgical benefits.
“As a service provider in the public mental health system, we often help individuals who didn't receive adequate mental health treatment when and where it was needed due to lack of coverage in their health insurance policy," explained Chad Costello, Director of Public Policy at Mental Health America of Los Angeles. "People tend to give up after being given the runaround by their insurers. By failing to get help early, it can often lead to loss of a job, their home and distancing from friends and family until they reach us in the public mental health system. Federal parity regulations will ensure that behavioral health concerns are treated equally with physical health so that Americans are afforded adequate timely healthcare for the whole person."
About The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Founded in 1979, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is the nation's leading nonprofit graduate school dedicated exclusively to the applications of psychology and related behavioral sciences. The school is an active member of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology, which has recognized TCSPP for its distinguished service and outstanding contributions to cultural diversity and advocacy. The school's community service initiatives have resulted in five consecutive years of recognition on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, including the additional "With Distinction" honor in 2012. Campuses are located in Chicago; in Los Angeles, Westwood, and Irvine, California; and in Washington, D.C. For more information about The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, visit www.thechicagoschool.edu. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gradpsychology. Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thechicagoschool.
For more on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 visit the Parity Implementation Coalition website at parityispersonal.org.