Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) applauded a Gun Violence Task Force led by Vice President Biden for including in its recommendations the final implementation of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. The Act will expand access to behavioral health care for millions of Americans. Last week, Sens. Franken and Harkin called on Vice President Biden to ensure that final implementation was included the task force's recommendations.
"Quality mental health care is critical to the well-being of people all over Minnesota and all over this country, and by making care more accessible, we can make our communities safer and stronger," said Sen. Franken. "Four years ago, Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which entitles millions of Americans to access a full range of mental health and substance use disorder services. I'm pleased that, after years of pressure from myself and other legislators, the White House announced today that it will finally implement that law, which will allow millions of Americans to access the mental health care they need and deserve."
"I am pleased to see that President Obama is moving forward to implement mental health parity for Americans who need it," said Sen. Harkin. "These regulations will help close the gap between care for physical and mental health, recognizing that both are crucial elements for the prevention of disease and ensuring individuals lead successful and productive lives. I will monitor the implementation of this law by insurance companies to guarantee that parity of benefits is truly happening. It is long overdue."
Sens. Franken and Harkin have been pushing for the implementation of the mental health parity law for years. They have led several congressional letters urging the Obama Administration to move forward with the implementation of mental health parity. In addition to last week's letter, which can be found here, they led a December letter - signed by 24 other senators - urging President Obama to implement the law. Sen. Franken has been named "Legislator of the Year" by Mental Health America and the Minnesota Psychiatric Association for his leadership on mental health issues. Senator Harkin has been a long-time champion of mental health parity legislation and has fought hard for funding for mental health services and research in his role as Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.