Smith Urges Congress to Pass Mental Health Parity
Senator Gordon Smith praised the Senate Finance Committee's inclusion of mental health parity legislation in a tax extenders bill that is likely to be brought to the Senate floor this week. The legislation would require health insurance plans that offer mental health benefits to provide coverage comparable to that offered for other physical illnesses.
"Mental health must be a top priority for Congress, and I am pleased that this legislation will for the first time deliver equality in health care coverage to the millions of Americans living with a mental illness," said Smith. "This disease is just as devastating and deadly as a physical illness, and therefore we must now pass this badly needed reform into law."
Smith has been a leader in Senate efforts to advance mental health parity legislation. Earlier this year, Smith succeeded in including parity for Medicare mental health co-payments as part of the Medicare improvement package. He has also pushed for mental health parity coverage for children under the SCHIP program.
With Congress approaching the end of session, Smith also expressed commitment to advancing other critical reforms to help persons with mental illness. "With over 600,000 suicide attempts each year, Congress must move swiftly to reauthorize the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act," said Smith. "This program has trained more than 150,000 parents, teachers, doctors and other community leaders to identify the signs of suicide and intervene before any more precious lives are lost." The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act is the only federal program targeted at reducing the incidence of youth suicide.