Group raises awareness of insurance parity for mental health

The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island introduced its Rhode Island Parity Initiative during a news conference at Butler Hospital, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. (WJAR)

There's a new initiative aimed at empowering people with mental illness.

The goal is to educate people about their rights while and keeping care equal.

It’s called the Mental Health Parity Initiative.

Its announcement Thursday morning at Butler Hospital featured consumers, along with Gov. Gina Raimondo and Ruth Feder, who is the executive director of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island.

"What parity means is the same. It means that health insurance for mental illness, including addiction disorders, must be the same as coverage for medical conditions. And what this project hopes to do is inform people about their rights,” said Feder.

Marilyn Matzko, a consumer and consumer advocate, said her adopted daughter has been in need of mental health services over the years. Many times, she said, she had to pay up front and wait for reimbursement.

"It is beyond insulting and demoralizing to families,” said Matzko, who pointed out another problem.

"There's a significant shortage of in-network providers for children in Rhode Island."

That means long waits for patients.

"Every single person here and every person I talk to through the media has someone in their life struggling with mental illness,” said Raimondo, who is pledging to fund more mental health services in local schools.

The new initiative is aimed at education.

"Educate people about what their options are and also point them in the direction of agencies that can help them."

Radio and bus ads will help promote this new initiative in the coming weeks.

BCBS of RI has taken many steps to help ensure parity including not requiring prior approval for in-network mental health or substance use services.

Click here to learn more.

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