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NAMI Salutes  Georgia Governor And State Lawmakers

For Ending Discrimination Against Mental Illness


Contact:
Mary Rappaport or
Valerie Rheinstein 703/524-7600
For Immediate Release
13 Apr 98

Statement by Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Arlington, VA -- The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) today praised Georgia Governor, Zell Miller and state lawmakers for standing up to stigma and ending insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses.

SB 620, which was enacted into law by the Governor during a signing ceremony on April 6, requires insurance companies to offer medical coverage for biological brain disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, equal to that provided for similarly debilitating physical illnesses, whenever mental health benefits are offered.

"We applaud Governor Miller and the state legislature for putting the people of Georgia first," said Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "These courageous state leaders have validated in legislation what researchers have proven in science -- mental illnesses are physical disorders of the brain that are highly treatable."

Flynn singled out Senators Connie Stokes and Charles Walker, principal sponsors of the legislation, and Representative Jimmy Lord, for their legislative skill and steadfast dedication. She also congratulated members of NAMI Georgia, formerly the Georgia Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and their strong coalition for their tireless efforts in bringing about this momentous change. "This is a shining example of extraordinary grassroots advocacy and education making a difference in people's lives," she said.

Don Daves, president of NAMI Georgia, stated, "This landmark law could never have happened without the perseverance and hard work of coalition members and the bill’s sponsors. We’re also tremendously thankful to Jimmy Lord. Without his expert guidance in the House, this bill could not have passed."

Georgia joins sixteen states currently on the books as intolerant of insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses, including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Vermont.

With more than 172,000 members, 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, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

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NAMI is the nation's largest 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.

"Open Your Mind. Mental Illnesses are Brain Disorders." NAMI's Campaign to End Discrimination is a five-year effort to end insurance, housing, and employment discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses

 

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