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By: Caliph Assagai, JD, 6/20/2014

On behalf of NAMI California, we want to thank everyone who responded to our recent efforts in support of the Mental Health Parity Enforcement Budget Act as it worked through the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees. Together we were able to have a significant impact on the adoption of the Mental Health Parity Enforcement Budget Act by both the Senate and Assembly. And today, Governor Jerry Brown signed a budget that will include roughly $2.5 million for the Mental Health Parity Enforcement Budget Act! The funds will be used for enforcement positions at the Department of Managed Health Care and Department of Insurance.

While this is less than was suggested by the Budget Conference Committee ($4.2 million), it is still a significant investment in beginning the process of creating a robust parity enforcement mechanism in California. We are so proud of Senator Jim Beall and Randall Hagar of the California Psychiatric Association for their hard work and leadership in bringing about this outcome about! NAMI California was happy to play a role in this victory through the advocacy of our office and the voices of advocates like you.

During the process NAMI California participated in DMHC and CCMH Stakeholder calls, submitted support letters and provided testimony to the Assembly Budget Committee #1 on Health and Human Services, Senate Budget Committee #3 on Health and Human Services, and the full Senate Budget Committee; and our Capitol Coalition members provided testimony to committees as well!

In addition, we sent out “Action Alerts” to all NAMI California members to encourage them to call their Senator / Assembly Member or the Committee Chair to support these measures, generating hundreds of calls.

The response from our NAMI affiliate members was terrific!

We were part of a broad coalition working on this issue, and we can definitely claim this as a huge success for the mental health community!

Once again, a hearty “well done” from NAMI California to those who took the time to assist in our efforts to enforce mental health parity requirements in California.

However, this is just the first step. We will have to keep the pressure on as this Act is implemented, and continue to fight for the resources to enforce mental health parity as we measure the outcomes of this first success! But for now we can rest assured that this is a priority for the Legislature and the Governor, and the appropriate infrastructure is in place to ensure that this will eventually be done right! Further, these parity requirements do not apply to mental health benefits offered through Medi-Cal, so there remains much work to be done!

For more information on parity requirements, follow this LINK to “Does Your Insurance Cover Mental Health Services?” prepared by the American Psychological Association.

The NAMI California Advocacy Team