UPDATE: Mental Health Parity Passes with Massive Bailout Bill October 3, 2008

The House and Senate signed a new parity bill taking out loopholes for employers and health insurers when it comes to covering services for people who have mental illnesses. They attached this bill to what became the $840 Billion Bailout Bill which, on October 3, 2008, the President signed the Bailout Bill. This passage, for the first time in US history, makes mental healthcare as important as physical healthcare, knocking out legs that stigma once stood upon.

Clear Channel Outdoor partners with me again fall 2008. Last year, Clear Channel partnered with me with an in-kind donation of more than $20,000, extending the one-month campaign to three months. Put Your Money Where Your Mind Is bus signs also ran in Chicago in partnership with Titan Worldwide. November 2008 holds one of the most crucial if not the most crucial presidential election. We the people can and must vote for leaders who support people before profit.

My spiritual nature is strongest when my heart and spirit conceive in the freedom of streams in my consciousness. This same golden warm stability also is mine when I help people help themselves. At the end of 2006, using spiritual and financial resources, I commissioned an mental health awareness campaign to run for a month beginning January 15, 2007. On the back of public buses, a six-foot sign alerts viewers to the need to “Put your money where your mind is. Mental illnesses run in every family. Educate yourself. Call 800–273–8255.” Accompanying this message is my painting, “Out of Nowhere.” I selected it because you can avoid the horror I and my family and friends experienced when we discovered that I was in a full-blown manic episode. I know I need not preach to the choir — we already know that mental illnesses are not issues of morality, but of ignorance, mistreatment, fear and unnecessary shame. Mental illnesses are treatable. Everyone, from the White House on down, needs to treat them that way.
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Mental Health Parity Bill Passes as Attachment to Bailout Bill

The Senate passed a mental health parity bill this summer; the House passed their version last spring. The House and Senate signed off on a new version of mental health parity at the end of September. This bill was attached to the Bailout Bill, which was signed into law on October 6, 2008.

By 2010, all health insurers must offer coverage of mental healthcare comparable to physical healthcare. What this means to us all is that stigma against people who have these illnesses no longer has legs. The increasing numbers of US Veterans returning from the Middle East who have mental illnesses have helped to break down this centuries old stigma because the problems of our armed forces are affecting neighborhoods, neighbors and their family members and no longer can be denied.

George Bush, led by his cabal of right-wingers Kristol, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rove, too many more to name, at last irrefutably have been exposed by their reckless greed that fed our soldiers to guerilla warfare proven so disastrous in the Vietnam War. Poor, poor United States of America.

Leave no one you know or meet uninformed of the disasters to come should Republicans be allowed back in the White House.
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House of Representatives Passes Parity Bill March 5, 2008

The House at last passed the mental health parity bill 268 to 148: 221 Democrats and 47 Republicans. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA. Democrat), said, “Illness of the brain must be treated just like illness anywhere else in the body.”

The Senate passed a similar bill last year. Unfortunately, the Bush in today’s White House spoke against this pasasge, claiming that it “would effectively mandate coverage of a broad range of diseases.” Naturally his concern is for big business profits rather than workers in need, should this parity legislation become effective. In addition, he ignores the Congressional Budget Office estimate that parity would increase premiums for group health insurance by an average of only four-tenths of 1 percent.

The New York Times also reported that stigma has lessened against these illnesses as more and more armed forces veterans return from the Middle East with mental illnesses. So now we wait and see if the president vetoes the bill and, if not, whether businesses and insurers comply, and if parity is enforced.

There is no doubt about it. Attitudes toward mental health are changing for the better. Is yours?
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You Can Make Parity Happen in Wisonsin: This Just In:

December 21, 2007

The Mental Health Fairness Act, LRB – 1049/5 has just been introduced by Senator Dave Hansen (D) and Representative Sheryl Albers (R). They are seeking co-sponsors. A long bipartisan list of cosponsors will help the bill to get moving once it is introduced next month. Your call can help make that happen.

This is a comprehensive parity bill: it requires plans to cover mental health and substance abuse disorders in a manner which is no more restrictive with regard to terms and conditions of coverage than other services, e.g., annual and lifetime visit and dollar limits, copays, deductibles. The bill, for the first time, also includes language requiring insurers to cover one mental health/substance abuse screening annually and also one pre and one post-partum screening for depression for pregnant women.

This bill is different than legislation introduced in recent sessions in that it does not increase coverage requirements for mental health and substance abuse treatment; it simply calls for equality in coverage.

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation requiring mental health parity this year. Three House committees have also passed a similar version of parity. Unfortunately, progress has been stalled, and it is unlikely that federal action will be taken before the end of their legislative session. That is why it is incredibly important for Wisconsin’s legislature to act and end this kind of legalized discrimination that continues to plague patients struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.

LRB-1049/5 is supported by the Wisconsin Coalition for Fairness.

Call or e-mail your state senator and assembly representative today and ask them to co-sponsor the Mental Health Fairness Act, LRB-1049/5. Be sure to include your full name and home address in all communications.

Talking points
Note: It’s always effective to share your own experience and stories.

  • State law currently establishes a minimum of $7000 for mental health and substance abuse coverage and many plans limit their coverage to this amount. This minimum has not increased since 1985 although the cost of services has increased dramatically. As a result, many families and individuals are struggling to pay for these important healthcare services, and many are not able to get the essential healthcare services they need.
  • Mental health disorders are treatable and the success rate for treatment is high. The 42 states which have parity laws in place have not seen significant increases in costs. Businesses that provide insurance coverage of mental illnesses have also found an unexpected benefit in reduced sick leave for physical ailments and increased productivity.

Milwaukee Area State Representatives
Mail to: PO Box 8952 (Reps A-L) PO Box 8953 (Reps M-Z) Madison, WI 53708

→District Number/ Name

→#7 Peggy Krusick

→#8 Pedro Colon

→#9 Josh Zepnick

→#10 Polly Williams

→#11 Jason Fields

→#12 Fred Kessler

→#13 David Cullen

→#14 Leah Vukmir

→#15 Tony Staskunas

→#16 Leon Young

→#17 Barbara Toles

→#18 Tamara Grigsby

→#19 Jon Richards

→#20 Christine Sinicki

→#21 Mark Honadel

→#22 Sheldon Wasserman

→#23 Jim Ott

→#24 Suzanne Jeskewitz

→#27 Steve Kestel

→#58 Pat Strachota

→#60 Mark Gottlieb

→#82 Jeff Stone

→#83 Scott Gunderson

→#84 Mark Gundrum

→#97 Bill Kramer

→#98 Rich Zipperer

→#99 Don Pridemore

Milwaukee Area State Senators Mail Senate correspondence to P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707–7882

→District #/Name

→#3 Tim Carpenter

→#4 Lena Taylor

→#5 Jim Sullivan

→#6 Spencer Coggs

→#7 Jeff Plale

→#8 Alberta Darling

→#9 Joseph Leibham

→#20 Glenn Grothman

→#28 Mary Lazich

→#33 Theodore Kanavas

If you do not know who your state legislators are, see “Who Are My Legislators?” at http://waml.legis.state.wi.us/winter
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We Did It! Senate Unanimously Passes Parity Bill!

Unanimously! Thank you for your advocacy to your elected officials. Now we have to get parity passed in the House of Representatives: HR 3162! Please contact your House representatives and urge them to pass this crucial measure. Go to:

And then of course it’s up to our president to sign the bill. Will he, big business fan that he is? Let him know what you want and need. The shameful way our USA treats people who have mental illnesses has to end. You can help. I’m sure you know family members who need mental health services. Most of us do at some point in our lives. These illnesses run in every family. Every family. Yours, mine, your neighbor’s, doctors, attorneys, teachers. One in four people experience these illnesses. The National Institute of Mental Health has researched this fact over and over through the years. Everyone, you, me, and perhaps not the man in the moon.

It’s time everyone forgets about the media stereotype of people with mental illnesses. And the media has to stop featuring the impoverished people whose illnesses become out of control because they don’t have access to mental health care. The media must take responsiblity for reporting balanced stories on mental health. The “If it bleeds, it leads” mentalilty incites the dark side of human nature, that in some of us who crave any kind of attention and get it through acts of violence. No wonder our culture is witnessing a rise in violence and substance abuse. But people who have mental illnesses far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it. Through the centuries, those of us whose circumstances fired up our inherited illnesses have been victims of stigma by those who, out of ignorance or fear or arrogance, felt they could belittle and otherswise mistreat individuals who have these profoundly human conditions. This dark ages mindset must be enlightened. You can help by getting the facts about mental health issues. Put your money where your mind is. Educate yourself. Call 1–800–272–8255. Don’t waste any more time in misery.

This just in from Mental Health America

Both houses of Congress passed bills reauthorizing and expanding the children’s health insurance program. Though the Senate- and House-passed bills differ in scope, each addresses important mental health issues. The Senate bill, S. 1893, includes a measure ensuring parity in the children’s health insurance program. The broader House bill, HR 3162, tackles other mental health issues including strengthening the Medicare mental health program while blocking an Administration-proposed cutback on
Medicaid rehabilitative services. View a summary of these provisions at


This month, as Congress takes up reauthorization of the children’s health bill, many of these strong mental health provisions are at risk of being cut from the final legislation before it is sent to the President. Your help will ensure that these vital protections are preserved.

Please contact your senators and representative and urge them to preserve key mental health provisions from both the House and Senate versions in the final children’s health legislation. Go to:

Access to mental health treatment for millions of Americans is at stake. Over two-thirds of children and two-thirds of older adults living in the community who need mental health services currently do not receive them. This is due in part to discriminatory benefit limits on mental health services not only under the current law authorizing the children’s health insurance program, but under Medicare law as well. Legislation reauthorizing the children’s health insurance program provides a critical, but fleeting opportunity to abolish these access barriers.

Join Mental Health America in calling on Congress to remove these barriers to needed mental health care in all federal health programs by keeping the strongest possible mental health provisions in the children’s health bill.

Thank you for taking action!
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Perception and Parity

by Patricia Obletz


What’s your perception of people who have mental illnesses, particularly after the recent massacre at Virginia Tech? If you’re like “61 percent of Americans, you believe that (they) are likely to be dangerous to others.” The fact is that people who have mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, are 2.5 times more often victimized by violence than the majority of people.

It’s impossible to calculate how many people are victimized by shame, fear, denial, greed, and widespread ignorance, self-inflicted or imposed. After Virginia Tech, Robert Bernstein, psychologist and executive director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, said that the Center has won lawsuits for students against college administrations that have barred them from campus for receiving mental health services because the students were perceived to be “engaging in ‘endangering’ behavior.” The Center plans to release soon a model policy that would encourage students to seek treatment before their problems reach crisis proportions, as well as ensure that “any disciplinary action is based on dangerousness and not discrimination.” Dr. Bernstein also said that schools need to take actions to de-stigmatize mental illnesses, remove barriers to seeking treatment, and ensure that students will not be penalized when they do ask for help.

Indefensible stigma also must be the explanation for the fact that health insurance agencies in the most powerful country on the planet are allowed to deny individuals with treatable illnesses the kind of help that will enable them to become contributing citizens.

The bottom line is that these profoundly human conditions run in every family around the world.

The following statistics were compiled by Wisconsin Family Ties:

  • One in five young people has at least one diagnosable mental or addictive disorder, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. [U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, 2001]

  • Nearly 90,000 school-age children in Wisconsin have a mental illness that substantially impacts their functioning at home, at school, and in the community. [Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Family Services, 2006]

  • Only 15.6% of Wisconsin children with serious mental health disorders received any public mental health services in 2005, compared to 32.5% of adults. [Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Family Services, 2006]

  • Nationally, 79% of children with private health insurance do not receive needed mental health services. [Kataoka, Zhang & Wells, 2002]

  • High school youth with mental health challenges are more likely to fail or drop out of school. Up to 14% receive mostly Ds and Fs, compared to 7% for all children with disabilities. [Blackorby, et al., 2003] The high school non-completion rate for children with emotional and behavioral disorders is 56%, highest of all disability groups. [O’Leary, Wisconsin Statewide Transition Conference, 2004]

  • The suicide rate of youth under the age of 25 in Wisconsin is 36% higher than the national average. [Shiffler, Hargarten & Withers, 2005] More than 90 percent of adolescents who take their lives have a mental health disorder such as depression. [U.S. Surgeon General’s Conference on Children’s Mental Health, 2000]

  • Mental health hospitalization rates for Wisconsin children increased by 17% between 1997 and 2003. [Wisconsin Council on Children & Families, 2005]

  • Treatment success rates for mental health disorders range from 60% to 90%, surpassing those of other medical conditions such as heart disease, which has a treatment success rate of 45–50%. [Mental Health Liaison Group, 2003]

And there also is the 2003 President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health report, which concludes that “mental illnesses are the number one cause of disability in the United States . . . More than two-thirds of adults and more than half of the children who have diagnosable mental disorders do not get the mental health services they need. “ Furthermore, the Commission conceded that “stigma and inadequate health insurance coverage are in large part responsible for this harrowing fact”. And yet, loopholes in the current “mental health parity” legislation still get insurers and the rest of the for profit gang off the hook, those that have more than 50 employees.

Those of us in need of mental health services have yet to receive insurance benefits equal to those for physical problems, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, paralysis. Research also proves that these conditions often coexist with a mental illness which, if left untreated, exacerbates physical problems and increases costly emergency room visits.

Now we have the president’s April 20, 2007, radio speech on the latest mass murder in which he said: “Society continues to wrestle with the question of how to handle individuals whose mental health problems can make them a danger to themselves and others.” It’s obvious that we cannot wait for this administration to do anything to right this wrong. That’s why we the people have to act.

Please contact your congressional leaders and urge them to sponsor the Kennedy-Ramstad parity bill, in the Senate, S.558; in the House, HR 1367. It took me less than 60 seconds to do so at www.equitycampaign.net As their home page says, “Make history: Become a Citizen Co-Sponsor.” We the people have to make sure that affordable mental health check-ups and necessary treatment prevail from elementary school on up.

We need to know what mental illness is and learn how to identify it and treat it, and learn how to maintain recovery (see list of disorders and symptoms below). Don’t let ignorance, shame or fear make you make the same mistake I did. I knew nothing about mental health before I lost mine and entered the most terrifying time of my life. Please help yourself by visiting http://www.samhsa.gov



  • Surgeon General’s 1999 report
  • North Carolina State University and Duke University, Chamberlain, Claudine, “Victims, Not Violent: Mentally Ill Attacked at a Higher Rate,” ABC News.
  • WI. Dept. of Health and Family Services, 2006

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on April 06, 2009

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