National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Virginia And Montana Enact Parity Laws

First In Nation For 1999;
NAMI Urges Other States To Follow

Chris Marshall
For Immediate Release
20 Apr 99

Arlington, VA –Virginia and Montana have become the 20th and 21st states respectively to enact laws to end discrimination in health insurance benefits for persons suffering from severe mental illnesses.

Montana Governor Marc Racicot signed that state’s bill into law on April 19, 1999. In Virginia, the General Assembly assured enactment on April 7th by passing an amendment requested by Governor James Gilmore to exempt small businesses with 25 employees or less from the new law’s coverage. Unfortunately, the Governor’s veto of another bill which would have established an independent agency to oversee the state’s mental health care system overshadowed the Virginia victory.

"We won in Virginia," NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn emphasized. "The new law is a solid step forward in a state where few people thought parity had any chance at all. It is a good omen for the rest of the country."

"In Montana, NAMI’s campaign for parity was distinguished by strong community spirit. It stands out as one of the most positive efforts overall in the nation."

"We hope that lawmakers in other states will take notice and similarly do what’s right in 1999. We hope Governor Christine Todd Whitman will sign New Jersey’s parity bill. We expect Indiana’s Governor Frank O’Bannon to sign soon. We also are hoping for victory in California."