For Immediate Release - November 18, 2014

AG Coakley Statement on Recent Survey Showing Concern Among Massachusetts Voters for Mental Health Services

BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley today issued the following statement in response to a recent survey of state voters, conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Massachusetts chapter (NAMI Mass), showing a significant concern for mental health care and policy.

“This is an issue that has and continues to impact thousands of families across this Commonwealth, including my own, and we need to ensure access to quality mental health care for all. It is time to treat mental and behavioral health care just like we do physical care. No one should suffer in silence alone, and we must work together to end the stigma of mental illness, and most importantly get people the treatment they need and deserve.”

BACKGROUND:

AG Coakley has long said that the first step toward solving this problem is ending the stigma associated with mental illness, the perception that somehow mental illness is viewed as less “valid” than physical illness. AG Coakley has also called for a focus on ensuring that mental health treatment is available in emergency and non-emergency situations.

In October 2014, AG Coakley issued a preliminary report to the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) highlighting a behavioral health care disparity, citing the complex way that behavioral health benefits are administered and paid for in the Commonwealth.

In October 2013, AG Coakley called for a continued focus on mental health services and parity in a keynote speech before the Public Health Commission. In her remarks, AG Coakley referenced her brother Edward who battled mental illness for much of his life, and committed suicide at age 33.

AG Coakley has made sustained efforts to combat unfair and deceptive practices in the marketing and administration of health insurance. In May 2013, AG Coakley sent a letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) reiterating the mental health requirements for all carriers and urging their compliance with Massachusetts law.      

AG Coakley brought actions against national health carriers that have failed to comply with Massachusetts laws requiring coverage of mental health services to Massachusetts patients. Since she has taken office, AG Coakley has brought seven cases against national insurers – amounting to $5.6 million in payments to consumers and the state – that include allegations that the insurer specifically failed to cover mental health services as required by law.

In May 2013, AG Coakley awarded $500,000 in grants to help provide access to quality mental health services to Massachusetts veterans and their families with funding from a June 2012 settlement with the Life Insurance Company of North America.

For more information on mental health resources click here.

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