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Public Statements

Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


PAUL WELLSTONE MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION EQUITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - March 05, 2008)

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Mr. TIM MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I thank the ranking member.

The CBO doesn't score savings. If it did, it would note that drug and alcohol addictions cost $400 billion each year, that depression costs employers $51 billion each year, that depression increases the risk for chronic illness, and that chronic illness and untreated depression doubles the cost of health care. It would also note that caffeine withdrawal and jet lag are not something that insurance companies pay for. In fact, they are not medically necessary. It is not occurring here.

But let's see what really happens with a person with mental illness, and I am saying this as a psychologist, as someone who has seen this time and time again, how the symptom really works. A person with a deadly disease such as anorexia or bulimia withers away until malnutrition and dehydration puts them in the hospital. Once the hospital stabilizes them, they come out. Maybe they will have a visit or two with a counselor or psychiatrist or psychologist. Maybe their primary care physician will put that person on some medication. And 75 percent of psychotropic drugs are prescribed by nonpsychiatrists, by people not trained in the field, because they don't have treatment possibilities under their health care plan.

I oftentimes have a somewhat tongue-in-cheek agreement with obstetricians: I don't deliver babies, and they don't treat mental illness. Unfortunately, that may be all the plan allows for.

But let's look at us as Members of Congress. Out of 435 Members of Congress, out of the 10,000 employees on our side of the Hill, we know that there are hundreds, thousands of people, quite frankly, who at some point in their working career will have some mental illness. What do we do with a well-trained employee? Do we say, you're fired? Do we say, go out and suck it up? Do we send them out into the unemployment system? Do we send them out into the welfare system? Do we take our children and send them out to the educational system and say, let the school take care of it? If it is a family member, do we say, well, be part of the criminal justice system, perhaps go into the emergency room system? No. We have the situation as Members of Congress where we can say, no, you can get help and you can get treatment.

Why not for the rest of the country? Why not look at this as a cost-saving measure? This is more than just a compassionate measure. I speak as someone who has treated the mentally ill all my professional life, for 25 years. I know time and time again, when the people who are trained in this field to do something are told, no, you can't see this patient anymore, what do you say to the autistic child's parents? What do you say to somebody suffering from depression? What do you say to that person with anorexia or bulimia or any host of other problems when you have to say you are not covered, and so they are treated by someone with nothing in terms of experience in that field?

If we really want to save money, if we really are looking at things to help business, let's look at and see what AT&T and Pepsi and PPG and other corporations have said, that it saves them millions of dollars in indirect costs, billions of dollars.

Let's be honest about this. If we leave the system the way it is, we will see more wasted money. We will see more deaths. We will see more people mistreated or lacking treatment. Let's do the right thing.

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