National Alliance on Mental Illness
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(800) 950-NAMI;
Parity in Oklahoma - The Time is Now
Melissa Saunders Katz (703) 516-7963
Mary G. Rappaport (703) 312-7886
For Immediate Release
24 Apr 97

Statement by Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

The Oklahoma legislature has a unique opportunity to rectify a great wrong. With the introduction of HB1077/SB274 could put an end to insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses. This legislation would provide insurance coverage for mental illness equal to that for all other physical disorders.

We applaud Senator Angela Monson (D-Oklahoma City) for attempting to validate in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works.

Ending discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses is not only the right thing to do, but evidence is mounting that it is affordable. A study of New Hampshire insurance companies by the Lewin Group found that the state's parity law did not cause an increase in premiums after it was implemented.

Currently, eight states have laws that end insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses (Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, and most recently Colorado). It is time to give all people equal access to insurance coverage.

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization 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 140,000 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.