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LETTERS

Mass. Senate lauded for taking steps to fix broken mental health system

Senate President Karen E. Spilka and Senator Julian Cyr were among those on hand on Feb. 6 when the Mental Health ABC Act was unveiled.
Senate President Karen E. Spilka and Senator Julian Cyr were among those on hand on Feb. 6 when the Mental Health ABC Act was unveiled.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Kudos to the Massachusetts Senate for its efforts to begin to fix our broken mental health service system with real mental health parity (“Mental health care is vital to routine health care,” Opinion, Feb. 13). The restrictions on access to mental health care in the insurance market are due to burdensome rules imposed by insurers in direct noncompliance with the 2008 federal parity law.

Unfortunately, our society stigmatizes those who suffer from mental illness and substance use disorders. Insurers take advantage of this stigma to minimize investment in behavioral health and substance use disorder services. Why can people receive life-saving cardiac care without question while care for life-threatening mental health and substance use disorders is unavailable to so many?

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A well-regarded 2019 Milliman Research Report found that Massachusetts is a state with some of the most unfair insurance practices. This legislation (“Mental health parity bill advances,” Metro, Feb. 14) would eliminate these practices and is an important first step in improving access.

Chronic underinvestment in inpatient psychiatric services, particularly for children, is a major contributor to emergency department boarding, a practice that definitely does not meet an individual’s and family’s acute psychiatric needs. Currently, a “carve-out,” or third-party, insurer benefits financially if a patient is stuck in an ER or on a medical floor instead of receiving the appropriate inpatient psychiatric treatment.

We look forward to passage of comprehensive mental health reform in the current legislative session.

Dr. Sally Reyering

President-elect

Dr. Gary Chinman

Immediate past president

Dr. Marilyn Price

President

Massachusetts Psychiatric Society

Waltham