SC Department of Mental Health News Release

April 30, 2002
For Immediate Release
Contact: John Hutto, Director of Communications


President Bush To Work for Mental Health Parity Legislation

Columbia, SC - Today, officials at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) said that they were very pleased to learn that President Bush has announced that he will work to pass federal mental health parity legislation to eliminate disparities in the coverage of mental health benefits.

In a news release from the White House, President Bush also announced the formation of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to develop recommendations on improving the nation's mental health service delivery system. This Commission will have one year to recommend immediate improvements that can be implemented by both public and private providers of mental health services.

Said SCDMH State Director George Gintoli, " With the president's support of parity legislation, insurance providers will be treating people with severe and persistent mental illness the same as people suffering from any other disease. With proper coverage and entitlements to service, South Carolinians with mental health care needs will lead healthy lives. This is a major advancement in our pursuit of parity."

In South Carolina , the State Health Plan implemented mental health parity in January 1, 2002. This implementation is on a three-year trial basis. Claims for mental health and substance abuse will be subject to the same deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums as medical claims. There are no caps on the number of provider visits allowed, and there is no longer a separate annual and lifetime maximum for mental health benefits.

Improving the accessibility of its services for children and adults is one of the SCDMH's primary objectives. Last year, the Department served about 100,000 clients, including 33,000 children. About 90% of the clients were served in the Department's seventeen community mental health centers. One goal of the President's New Freedom Commission of Mental Health is to "investigate community-based care models that have success in coordinating and providing mental health services."

Office of Communications
P.O. Box 485 Columbia, SC 29202
(803) 898--8581


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