Massachusetts Senators Spilka, Rodrigues, Friedman and Cyr rally with invited guests at
the State House before debate on An Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health

Comments delivered at Parity Rally at State House
By Gary Chinman, MD
Delivered February 13th, 2020

This bill, this legislation, this historic legislation is a tremendous step forward in the longstanding, ongoing effort to enable the residents of Massachusetts gain access to the appropriate mental health care they need and deserve. Senate President Spilka, Sen Friedman, Sen Cyr, and Sen Rodrigues deserve our gratitude and admiration for the insight, the foresight, the compassion and the respect with which they crafted this critically necessary bill.

Mental health and substance use disorders are, in aggregate, the most common, serious and, very sadly, potentially fatal health conditions of any type, and yet these conditions have for far too long been seen as shameful. It has not been all that long, certainly within my lifetime, since people felt ashamed by receiving the diagnoses of cancer or even diabetes. I look forward to the day, certainly helped by this bill, when patients can discuss their mental health and substance use problems with their clinicians with the same focused, matter of fact attitude that they talk about their blood sugar or blood pressure readings AND GET THE CARE they need.

This profoundly important bill will help us to achieve exactly that. Thank you!

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Letter submitted for publication to the Boston Globe from MPS leadership Drs. Sally Reyering, Gary Chinman & Marilyn Price
Kudos to the Massachusetts Senate for their efforts to begin to fix our broken mental health service system with real mental health parity.  The restrictions on access to mental health care in the insurance market are due to restrictive and 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 the behavioral health and substance use disorder services.  Why can individuals receive life-saving cardiac care without question while life threatening mental health and substance use disorders are unavailable to so many?  The well regarded Milliman Report Update (1) reports that MA is a leading state in unfair insurance practices.  This legislation eliminates these practices and is an important first step in improving access.  The chronic under investment in inpatient psychiatric services, particularly for children, but also for adults and the elderly, is a major contributor to ED boarding, a practice which definitely does not meet an individual and family’s acute psychiatric needs.  Currently a “carve-out” insurer benefits financially if a patient is stuck in an ED or on a medical floor instead of receiving the appropriate inpatient psychiatric treatment.  We congratulate the Massachusetts Senate for their efforts toward fixing our mental health system and look forward to passage of comprehensive mental health reform in the current legislative session.    

1 “Addiction and Mental Health vs Physical Health; Widening Disparities in Network Use and provider reimbursement” 11/19/2019, Milliman Research Report    

Marilyn Price, MD, President, Massachusetts Psychiatric Society
Gary Chinman, MD, Immediate Past President, Massachusetts Psychiatric Society 
Sally Reyering, MD, President - Elect, Massachusetts Psychiatric Society