Mental Health Parity for All in MichiganLinda Brauer / Monday, March 26th, 2012 / 1 Comment »
Currently, the Michigan House of Representatives is considering legislation that will ensure that children with autism can access and afford needed services. The compassion that has been demonstrated by legislators on this issue, gives me hope, particularly in these most uncertain times. In addition to sparing some of these families from financial ruin, the fact that these families will know that their community supports their efforts, and is invested in their children’s success, may be the most important gift of all. This is why I struggle to understand why, after 17 years of advocacy, Michigan is still one of seven states that has not passed legislation to implement a federal law passed in 2008, to prevent discrimination against people with mental illness, so that insurance coverage for mental health services do not cost more than for physical health, or are more restrictive.
Raising children with a brain disorder can cost some parents their careers, homes, life savings, and relationships. These parents are working harder than most, but have little to show for their efforts. Even when trying to explain to those who don’t understand, it can sound as if the parent is enabling their child or making excuses for children who are willful, “bad,” or who just lack discipline.
Families who have children with a visible disability are shown patience, empathy, and compassion. Even when these families can afford appropriate treatment, then they can be blamed for resorting to drugging their children because they don’t want to have to deal with them. The anguish and isolation these families experience can be oppressive. They lose confidence and hope. Siblings can feel like they’ve been abandoned, and are on their own. The damage caused by not being able to afford treatment is the message it sends, that in Michigan it’s okay to turn our backs on our fellow citizens, and blame them for what we have failed to provide. To discriminate against people with mental illness tells families and individuals that some people “deserve” to be “written off,” and that no amount of faith or love for their children makes any difference. To continue to ignore their personal sacrifice and relentless, impassioned letters and testimonies, for years, though we know what works, is dehumanizing.
It can understandably be hard to believe that behavior isn’t necessarily rooted in one’s moral character or upbringing, or believe that medical treatment can somehow magically transform a child into being a more caring, considerate, reasonable, responsible human being –in less than an hour! I would find it hard to believe, too, if I hadn’t witnessed this miracle, myself, everyday. Medical treatment can be what finally makes other treatments effective. With new research and the safe and effective treatment options now available, how much longer must they wait? Why would we care about some children but not all, just because a child has one diagnosis instead of another? Without diminishing treatment for autism, or expecting the state to provide any additional funding, please tell Michigan’s state elected officials you support equitable coverage for all neuropsychiatric disorders, not just for some.