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

Contact: Melissa Saunders Katz (703) 516-7963
Mary G. Rappaport (703) 312-7886
April 16, 1997

The Texas legislature has a unique opportunity to rectify a great wrong. For too long, people with severe mental illnesses have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. With the introduction of HB 1173, Texas would expand equal coverage for severe mental illnesses beyond state employees and offer this essential protection to every citizen of Texas.

We applaud Representative Garnet Coleman (D – Houston) and Senators Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and David Cain (D – Dallas) for attempting to validate in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works. We have been especially moved by the courage and conviction of Representative Coleman in his public dialogue about his own experience with a mental illness. As a state employee, he has parity insurance coverage. He is working to ensure that all other Texans are afforded the same basic right.

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, seven states are on the books as intolerant of insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses (Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maryland, Minnesota, and most recently Colorado). It is time to give all people equal access and 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.