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Parity In New Mexico - The Time Is Now

Mary Rappaport 703/312-7886
Pat Jahoda 505/983-2584
For Immediate Release
6 Feb 98

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

The New Mexico legislature has a unique opportunity to make significant strides toward rectifying a great wrong. For too long, people with severe mental illnesses have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. HB 315 would establish nondiscriminatory parity coverage in health care plans for major mental illnesses among its state employees.

We applaud principal sponsor Representative Edward C. Sandoval (D-Bernalillo-17), for attempting to validate in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works. His work will ensure that, under a two-year pilot project, state employees and their families who suffer from major mental illness are afforded the same basic rights as people with other physical illnesses.

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 paper published on November 12, 1997 in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) provided evidence that equitable health insurance under managed care costs less than $1 per employee per year. Currently, 15 states are on the books as intolerant of insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont).

Paving the way nationally toward ending decades of unfair insurance discrimination, New Mexico's own U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN), successfully sponsored landmark legislation, the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, which took effect on January 1, 1998.

In anticipation and support of the passage of HB 315, NAMI Regional Representatives are pleased to join leading state NAMI New Mexico advocates, supporting professionals, consumers, families and friends at a rally and press conference at the Sante Fe Capitol Rotunda on Monday, February 9, at 9:30 a.m. This will be followed by a Legislative Luncheon at the nearby Hotel Loretto. Media attendance is encouraged.

"Open Your Mind. Mental Illnesses are Brain Disorders." NAMI's Campaign to End Discrimination is a five-year effort to end insurance, housing, and employment discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses.  

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