President Obama to sign Murphy mental health bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s a major overhaul of the mental health system, and it comes through the efforts of dozens of Connecticut residents that provided months of input to Senator Chris Murphy, who got the changes included in a bi-partisan bill about to be signed by President Obama Tuesday.

It’s estimated that more than half of all adults and children with mental health problems end up getting no treatment. This change in law is designed to address that.

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When Senator Chris Murphy returns to Washington tomorrow morning to witness President Obama signing the “Mental Health Reform Act” he says it will be the culmination of the most important thing he has done since he first went to congress.

Murphy succinctly described the status of mental heath care in the U.S. Tuesday.

If your body is broken below the neck you are more likely to get good care than if your body is broken above the neck.”

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49-year-old Kathy Flaherty, of Newington, knows first hand. When she was in law school, she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and has bi-polar disorder.  “Your doctor recommends something and then somebody sitting at a desk at an insurance company denies it because they think it’s not ‘medically necessary,” says Flaherty.

Murphy notes that up until now, even if your statement of benefits says you have a mental health benefit in your policy, insurance companies require a lot of red tape that they don’t when you are hospitalized for a broken leg or some other physical ailment. Added Murphy, “It forces insurance companies to start paying for more mental health treatment. This bill now says that if you are denying treatments on the mental health side at a greater rate than on the physical health side then you’re in violation of federal law.”

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Kathy, who is now the Executive Director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, say the old way was ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ because many people end up in crisis,  “When they don’t give you coverage for low cost interventions and you don’t have access to the services and support you need you’re a lot more likely to have to use the most expensive parts of the system when
things don’t go well.”

There will be a single portal within the federal government for citizens to complain about denials of coverage and the government will act after just 5 complaints against an insurance company.

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This bill also brings more money back to the states to help fight the opioid epidemic and to study tick born diseases.

Web Extra: Mental Health Reform Fact Sheet provided by Senator Murphy’s Office.

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