Law puts mental health on par with physical health in Massachusetts – Wicked Local

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It’s a nuts-and-bolts bill addressing the structure and delivery of mental health services to Massachusetts residents, dealing mostly with insurance company issues: from compensation for providers, standardization of paperwork, expenditure tracking, to creating a statewide office to promote mental wellness.
While mandating insurance coverage for an annual mental health wellness screening, it establishes that, in Massachusetts at least, mental health is just as important as physical health.
Signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Aug. 16 in a post-legislative session ceremony, the Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) puts in place, Baker said, “the pieces necessary to get to a place of true parity” in mental and behavioral health services.
It takes a big step toward de-stigmatizing mental illness and substance abuse.
More:Advocates: 988 mental health hotline in Massachusetts a good start, more resources needed
The bill was hammered out in the post-final hours of the 192nd Legislative Session by both the Senate and the House last month. It came to fruition after decades of work, according to Senate President Karen A. Spilka (D-Ashland), and “countless individuals, families, advocates, providers and others who stood up for the common-sense idea that mental health is just as important as physical health. ” She thanked “everyone who has fought for mental health care reform in Massachusetts and never gave up.”
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In announcing the bill’s passage, Spilka was candid about her family’s own struggles with mental health.
“One moment, many years ago, I made the split-second decision to share the story of my family’s struggle with mental illness — a moment of vulnerability and honesty that has become a movement, as more and more people stand up and speak up for accessible, high-quality mental health care,” Spilka said. “We all deserve to have access to the mental health care we need, when we need it.”
The comprehensive mental and behavioral health reform bill breaks down barriers to access in different ways:
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“I’m incredibly proud of the mental health legislation passed today that will help to address the behavioral health crisis that so many of our residents are currently experiencing, and that will move us closer to treating mental and physical health equally,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). 


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