Press Releases

New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson Given Second Chance To End Discrimination Against Persons With Mental Illness

Mar 17 1999

Arlington, VA - NAMI, The Nation's Voice on Mental Illness, holds vigil with high hopes that New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson will not again veto the bipartisan showing of support from New Mexico's legislators who voted overwhelmingly in the House and Senate for HB 489, equal coverage for mental illnesses as that offered for other physical illnesses.

"Families in New Mexico and across the country were shocked and disappointed last year," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. "Governor Johnson shackled thousands of New Mexico families to a life without hope of a second chance, even as state and federal lawmakers across the country have moved in the direction of equality for people with mental illness."

"This year there is no need to again bow to special interest groups," assured Flynn. "NAMI salutes prominent business leaders like Sherman McCorkle of Albuquerque, CEO of Technology Ventures Corporation, who have encouraged what is now popular support of this legislation from the business community."

Adding further emphasis regarding the broad base of support from coalition members and others who once stood on the fence, NAMI-New Mexico President Shirley Washburn stated, "New Mexico's insurance industry leaders have absolutely no contest now with this legislation, which is due to sunrise on January 1, 2000, as agreed. It's been six years in the making. The time is now."

Paving the way nationally toward ending decades of unfair insurance discrimination, New Mexico's own United States Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) has been a patron saint to the millions of Americans suffering from mental illnesses. He and U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) successfully sponsored landmark legislation, the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, which took effect on January 1, 1998. Senators Domenici and Wellstone are planning to introduce new legislation this year that will provide even greater protections for millions of Americans affected by severe mental illnesses.

"We hope this year that Governor Johnson will show compassion and vision for the people of New Mexico as have so many leading citizens from all domains," said Flynn. "We also wish to applaud two stalwart legislative heroes who have been steadfast in their support of NAMI New Mexico families and consumers for this bill and others. Representative Edward Sandoval (D-Albuquerque) and Representative J. Paul Taylor (D-Las Cruces) are to be commended for their legislative acumen."

Ending discrimination against people with mental illness is not only the right thing to do, but evidence is mounting that it is affordable and cost effective. The latest federal report on the costs of health insurance for mental illnesses, issued in July 1998 by the National Advisory Mental Health Council, concludes that full parity increase total healthcare costs less than 1 percent a year under managed care. The study also finds that plans implementing parity in conjunction with managed care could actually reduce costs substantially - by as much as 30 to 50 percent.

"We look now to the future and to applauding Governor Johnson for his signature on this important legislation," said Flynn.