Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 5-11, 2008: I Have a Challenge For You

This week's theme is, "Building Community, Taking Action," which includes Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day on Thursday, October 9. From NAMI:

Since 1990, mental health advocates across the country have joined together during the first week of October to celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) and Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of NAMI's efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day (BDAD) is held each year on the Thursday of MIAW.

As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week 2008, the 5th annual National Day of Prayer will be observed on Tuesday, October 7, by communities and congregations across the country.

MIAW and BDAD are NAMI's premiere public awareness and public education campaigns. They link the organization's over 1,100 local affiliates across the country.

Follow the links below to learn more or to obtain the resources you need to promote MIAW and/or BDAD:

Mental Illness Awareness Week
Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day
National Day of Prayer

We go into this week with very good news. When the Economic Stabilization Act was signed into law last week, it included a piece of legislation called the Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (HR 6983).

For 20 years, NAMI has fought for health insurance parity laws to ensure that employer health plans offer equitable coverage for medical illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and severe anxiety disorders.

This historic legislation is a victory for millions of Americans living with mental illnesses who face unfair discrimination in co-payments, doctorââ‚̢„¢s visits and hospital stays. The bill will require group health insurance plans to cover mental illness and substance abuse disorders on the same terms and conditions as other illnesses.

Once signed into law, Americans now will be able to get treatment when they need it.

NAMI is profoundly grateful to the bipartisan leadership on this important issue and thanks Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN), as well as Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Mike Enzi (R-WY), for their commitment in sponsoring the legislation.

This is something that NAMI has fought for for a long time, and I'm so glad to finally see mental health parity put into law. In 2001, half of the bankruptcies in the U.S. were due to staggering medical bills, and most of those people had health insurance. If a person with heart disease or cancer can hardly afford a 20% co-payment, imaging a person with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia dealing with a 50% co-payment! Some insurance companies don't cover mental health treatment at all. Hopefully that will change with this new legislation. More info here.

Here's my challenge for you this week: Last month, I blogged about the NAMIWalks walkathon that is coming up on Saturday, November 8. I set a fundraising goal of $500 for my team, and I would like to reach that goal this year since we fell short last year. Please go here to donate whatever you can. You can use this link to join my team, The Church Triumphant, if you are interested. I would love to have some of my JFP buddies walk with me this year, especially you Chick Ball participants. :)

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As a footnote to those who participated in the Chick Ball, imagine how many domestic abuse victims may have to deal with or are dealing with depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress. These victims may have to turm to an organization such as NAMI for support. Another good reason to donate!


Another article about the mental health parity legislation: Most employers and group health plans provide less coverage for mental health care than for the treatment of physical conditions like cancer, heart disease or broken bones. They will need to adjust their benefits to comply with the new law, which requires equivalence, or parity, in the coverage. For decades, insurers have set higher co-payments and deductibles and stricter limits on treatment for addiction and mental illnesses. By wiping away such restrictions, doctors said, the new law will make it easier for people to obtain treatment for a wide range of conditions, including depression, autism, schizophrenia, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse. Frank B. McArdle, a health policy expert at Hewitt Associates, a benefits consulting firm, said the law would force sweeping changes in the workplace. “A large majority of health plans currently have limits on hospital inpatient days and outpatient visits for mental health treatments, but not for other treatments,” Mr. McArdle said. “They will have to change their plan design.” Federal officials said the law would improve coverage for 113 million people, including 82 million in employer-sponsored plans that are not subject to state regulation. The effective date, for most health plans, will be Jan. 1, 2010. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new requirement will increase premiums by an average of about two-tenths of 1 percent. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees are exempt. The goal of mental health parity once seemed politically unrealistic but gained widespread support for several reasons: ¶Researchers have found biological causes and effective treatments for numerous mental illnesses. ¶A number of companies now specialize in managing mental health benefits, making the costs to insurers and employers more affordable. The law allows these companies to continue managing benefits. ¶Employers have found that productivity tends to increase after workers are treated for mental illnesses and drug or alcohol dependence. Such treatments can reduce the number of lost work days. ¶The stigma of mental illness may have faded as people see members of the armed forces returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious mental problems. ¶Parity has proved workable when tried at the state level and in the health insurance program for federal employees, including members of Congress. Dr. Steven E. Hyman, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said it was impossible to justify insurance discrimination when an overwhelming body of scientific evidence showed that “mental illnesses represent real diseases of the brain.” “Genetic mutations and unlucky combinations of normal genes contribute to the risk of autism and schizophrenia,” Dr. Hyman said. “There is also strong evidence that people with schizophrenia have thinning of the gray matter in parts of the brain that permit us to control our thoughts and behavior.”



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