MARCH 1997

A Mental Health Bill of Rights

Leaders of nine organizations representing more than 600,000 health and mental health professionals today issued a "Bill of Rights" to protect individuals seeking treatment for mental illness and psychological and substance use disorders.

The documents reflects the joint concern of mental health professionals that people with psychological disorders, mental illnesses and substance use disorders are not being well- served in today's rapidly changing health care system.

The Bill of Rights marks the first time that diverse professional organizations have come together to develop a shared set of principles that declare Americans' right to quality mental health care. The principles cover the individual's right to full information about an insurance or managed care plan, confidentiality, choice of mental health professional, insurance equal to that available for other illnesses, a role in determining treatment, and plan accountability. The principles will be sent to all health and managed care organizations, consumer groups, and to every member of Congress.

"As mental health professionals, we have dedicated ourselves to the welfare of our patients," said Harold I. Eist, M.D., President of the American Psychiatric Association. "Yet every day in our offices, we see the harm caused our patients who frequently are denied the care they need by managed care or insurance plan representatives who have never seen them, patients whose confidential medical records are not treated with respect, and who often are not told of all the treatment options available to them--all in the name of controlling costs which regularly turns out to ne making profits at the expense of patients. We hope that people will use the principles embodied in this Bill of Rights to demand and receive the care they need."

Added Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., President of the American Psychological Association, "The present obsession of today's health care system on controlling costs is compromising the rights of individuals to competent and quality care. The principles embodied in those Bill of Rights reflect what we as professionals believe individuals are entitled to when they select a health plan and when they seek treatment. We are pleased that major national patient advocacy groups agree, and have given us their moral support."

The Bill of Rights initiative has been commended by the National Mental Health Association, the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. These organizations are part of a National Managed Care Consortium which last year developed a very similar Bill of Rights for people in need of mental health services.

"We are very pleased that the major mental health professional groups were able to find common ground and develop these principles which complement the National Managed Care Consortium's Core Values and Principles," said Mike Faenza, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Mental Health Association who headed the consortium. "I congratulate the professional groups on their unprecedented accomplishment. Most importantly, we look forward to working with them. It is crucial that consumers, families and other advocates are the policy-making table to insure that behavioral health care reforms are good for children and adults with mental disorders," added Faenza.

Commending the Bill of Rights in a letter to Dr. Eist, Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said: "There has never been such a consensus document; it is a breakthrough. It is healthy for consumers and providers to speak in closer harmony in opposition to health system provisions that impede access, or reduce quality and consumer satisfaction."

A Joint Initiative of Mental Health Professional Organizations

Participating Groups:

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (membership: 25,000)
Anthony Jurich, Ph.D., President

American Counseling Association (membership: 56,000)
Gail Robinson, Ph.D., President

American Family Therapy Academy (membership 1,000)
Evan Imber-Black, Ph.D., President

American Nurses Association (membership: 180,000)
Beverly L. Malone, Ph.D., RN, President

American Psychological Association (membership: 151,000)
Dorothy W. Cantor, PsyD, President

American Psychiatric Association (membership: 42,000)
Harold I Eist, M.D., President

American Psychiatric Nurses Association (membership: 3,000)
Nancy M. Valentine, President

National Association of Social Workers (membership: 155,000)
Jay J. Cayner, ACSW, LSW, President

National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work (membership: 11,000)
Elizabeth Phillips, Ph.D., President

Supporting Groups:

National Mental Health Association
National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association
American Group Psychotherapy Association
American Psychoanalytic Association
National Association of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counselors

Copyright 1997 American Psychological Association

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