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October 2010

Winning Parity for Mental Health Coverage in New York State

In 2001, Timothy O’Clair committed suicide. He was 12 years old.

His parents’ health benefits provided limited coverage for mental health care and had sought help for over five years. “Timothy’s parents were faced with giving up custody of their son to the state in order to get the care they needed,” says Wendy Brennan, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City (NAMI).

Grants totaling $220,000 since 2001 have helped NAMI win the passage of a law that brought parity in insurance coverage for mental health services in New York State. After years of research, organizing, and advocacy by NAMI and Timothy’s family, Timothy’s Law was passed in 2006. “This life-saving law brings an end to discriminatory practices, and marks a major victory for the civil rights of people with mental illness and their families,” continued Brennan.

“New York now recognizes that mental health is a critical part of overall health. Businesses that provide health insurance to their workers must provide mental health coverage that is equally comprehensive,” says Irfan Hasan, program officer for health and people with special needs at The Trust.

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