Mary Rappaport 703/312-7886
Valerie Rheinstein 703/516-7963
|For Immediate Release
1 Apr 98
Statement by Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
The New Jersey Senate rectified a great wrong on March 30th by passing S-86, "An Act Concerning Health Insurance Benefits for Mental Health."
The bill passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 36 to 1. S-86 stipulates that biologically based mental illnesses be treated under the same terms and conditions as any other physical illness.
S-86 was sponsored by Senators Louis C. Bassano (R-21st) and Richard J. Codey (D-27th). It next goes for consideration to the Assembly. Senator Bassano had early on pledged to make this issue a priority. In December, NAMI NJ and other coalition members met to launch the "Campaign for Full Parity in New Jersey."
"We applaud Senators Bassano and Codey and the entire NJ Senate for taking this step," says Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "For too long, people with severe mental illnesses in New Jersey have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. The Senate this week has validated in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works."
"We also congratulate NAMI NJ for its exemplary advocacy efforts," says Flynn. "NAMI NJ president Harry Gallagher, executive director Sylvia Axelrod, the NAMI NJ legislative committee, and all staff and members should be proud.
"We encourage the New Jersey Assembly to pass a parity bill as well," says Flynn. "This could be the year that the state of New Jersey finally ends health insurance discrimination against people with serious mental illness."
Sixteen other states have already enacted laws that prohibit health insurance discrimination against people with mental illness: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont.
NAMI is the nation's leading grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 172,000 individual members and 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for nondiscriminatory and equitable federal and state policies; research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illnesses.