Readers Write: Why are we jeopardizing our nation’s mental health?

At a time when our nation is dealing with a growing mental health crisis, typified by the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bordain, states across the nation are choosing to allow insurance companies to cut or deny access to desperately needed treatment for mental health conditions.

Almost 10 years ago, our Nation made great strides in achieving parity between how insurance companies reimbursed individuals seeking treatment for mental illness, at levels on par with how for example you’d be reimbursed if you were seeking treatment for a heart condition.

Now all that could change in a heartbeat.

Recently NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) released the results of a study done by Georgetown University which shed light on the growing disparity between health care coverage for physical and mental illnesses.

In short, this report highlights current nationwide efforts to weaken the individual insurance market, which could mean returning to a time when Americans with mental health conditions could be denied coverage or offered coverage that excludes services they need.

As the voice for hundreds of thousands of people who deal with Mental Health issues every day here on Long Island, NAMI Queens/ Nassau is appalled by this disturbing trend.

At the same time and in a hopeful development, within the past few weeks both the New York State Senate and Assembly have passed versions of a bill that would obligate insurance companies to track and report how they are reimbursing their customers for claims related to mental illness.

Known as the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Report Act, New York State is poised to begin to reverse this disturbing national trend.

This is a tremendous victory and an important step in holding insurers responsible by requiring them to demonstrate that they are in compliance with parity.

Now that the bill has passed the legislature, NAMI Queens Nassau is calling on Gove. Cuomo to sign this bill and we urge the public to do the same.

Though this legislation is a clear victory for those living with mental illness, so much more needs to be done and NAMI Queens Nassau is urging the public to join us in compelling insurance companies to restore parity in the way they treat coverage for mental health conditions.

To find out how to help, please join our cause by visiting

Ellen Ritz, RN

Ellen Ritz is president of NAMI’s local affiliate NAMI Queens/ Nassau

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