Today in New Mexico, President George W. Bush stepped forward and joined NAMI as the nation's voice on mental illness. With Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) at his side, the President spoke words that NAMI members themselves have spoken in corridors of power throughout the nation, and served notice on Congress that the time has come to start matching words with deeds.
NAMI is extremely grateful to President Bush for his leadership in supporting an end to insurance discrimination against children and adults with severe mental illnesses and their families. NAMI's 210,000 members and 1,200 affiliates deeply appreciate the President's commitment to ensuring that parity legislation passes Congress in 2002. Even though federal parity fell short in 2001, we are hopefulthat presidential leadership will make all the difference this year.
We look forward to working with the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, which will be chaired by Michael Hogan, Ph.D., head of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and one of the nation's most respected experts. On June 29, 2002 in Cincinnati, NAMI in fact will honor Dr. Hogan for his many years of service and commitment to the cause of people with mental illnesses and their families. .
The Commission's interim report is due in six months; its final report in a year. The President identified three immediate obstacles to achieving a system in which mental illnesses are treated with the same urgency as physical illnesses. One is stigma. The second is the fragmentation of the current mental health service system, public and private. The third is discrimination in health insurance. In 2001, leaders in the House of Representatives killed legislation sponsored by Senator Domenici and Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) that would have ended insurance discrimination. Today, President Bush pledged to work with them to reach an agreement on mental healthy parity this year. It is critical that we provide "full mental health parity," while at the same time not "significantly" running up the cost of health care overall, he said. The cost of parity is insignificant, however, compared to its benefits and the risks and costs of untreated mental illness. We look forward to working with the President to pass legislation that represents an investment in all Americans.
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