NAMI Massachusetts 2014 Legislative Priorities
Restore Funding to the Department of Mental Health:
Over time, sustained cuts to the Department of Mental Health’s budget have adversely impacted the quality of services and spread already limited resources thin. Oftentimes, the difference between timely access to acute services is life or death, and the lack of consistent and universally available DMH resources is unacceptable. The Commonwealth must expand community-based services for individuals with serious psychiatric conditions. The FY2014 Budget is a step in the right direction. It provides an additional $32.4 million to fund the Department of Mental Health in FY2014. This modest gain must grow in the legislature’s FY2015 budget deliberations if we are to ensure that more children, adolescents, adults and seniors will begin the journey to recovery. Anything less than is a recipe for disaster.
Encourage Jail Diversion for People with Mental Illness:
NAMI Mass has launched an ambitious public advocacy and awareness and advocacy project to prevent or divert individuals from becoming involved in the criminal justice system when their mental health crisis causes problematic but non-violent behaviors. This approach has been proven to reduce both human and economic costs. Growing this program is a high priority for NAMI as we see a great need to bolster approaches that promote access to mental health treatment rather than arrest or jail. People living with mental illnesses can recover and live successfully in the community when they have access to community based services.
The FY2014 budget requires DMH to fund jail diversion programs in Massachusetts at the same levels as 2013.This continues training of law enforcement and other community-based responders. These programs bolster approaches that promote access to mental health treatment rather than arrest or jail. They also provide resources to develop prevention and intervention programs. NAMI Mass will continue to advocate for expanded funding for these necessary and effective training services.
Filed by Senator James Timilty this bill will consistently and adequately fund police training through an automobile insurance surcharge. This surcharge will fund two programs: the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) and an annual state police class.
This surcharge applies to private auto insurance policies at a rate of $2.50 – $2.75 per policy per year or 21-23 cents per month, and would generate enough revenue to sustain consistent and adequate training in both programs. This bill had a hearing in October and is still being considered by the legislature.
Filed by Representative Ruth Balser to require commercial insurance companies to pay for behavioral health emergency services provided by emergency services providers (ESP) across the state. Currently, individuals on MassHealth are covered by ESP providers but many people with private health insurance do not have access to ESPs. NAMI Mass believes this is wrong and must be corrected.
By requiring all commercial insurers doing business in Massachusetts to provide and pay for ESP services, this bill would reach every person residing in Massachusetts who is having a psychiatric crisis.
This bill had a hearing in October and is still being considered by the legislature.
Filed by Representative Ruth Balser, this bill would eliminate discrimination by long term disability insurers against people with mental illness. These companies that sell long term disability insurance are allowed to arbitrarily end LTD benefits to those with mental illness after two years. That same policy for those with a physical illness provides coverage until 65 or until their doctor says they no longer have the physical disability or condition.
This legislation requires all LTD policies sold in Massachusetts to cover mental illness the same way that psychical illnesses are covered. Leveling the playing field eliminates discrimination that currently exists in the insurance industry. This bill has yet to be heard by the legislature.
Filed by Senator Brian Joyce, this bill provides the opportunity to seek legal action when denied parity in services rendered for treatment. Under the state Parity Act, coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment should be comparable to that of physical health treatment. This bill would work to eliminate gaps in such comparable services by allowing individuals to challenge the inequalities in Superior Court; providing the legal backing for individuals seeking damages. NAMI Mass supports this bill as it provides the much needed legal standing to appeal the unfortunate and continuous lack of parity in mental health and substance abuse treatment.
By requiring parity in treatment, Massachusetts promotes equality in treatment coverage. With this bill, parity in treatment can be reinforced. It would allow the individual experiencing inequality in services to seek legal action and reparation for damages suffered.
Find Your Legislators:
To find who your legislators are or where to vote call 617-722-2000
NAMI Massachusetts Position Papers:
The Massachusetts Mental Health System is Critically Underfunded (PDF) 2011 NAMI Mass Position Paper
Massachusetts Emergency Behavioral Health Services Program NAMI Mass final 2010 position paper
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Meade