HARTFORD -- On Monday morning, Sen. Chris Murphy was in Hartford to celebrate the passage of the Mental Health Reform Act. Murphy thanked the families, mental health advocates and healthcare professionals who helped him craft the legislation.
Kathy Flaherty, executive director of Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Inc., was among the advocates who provided input into the legislation. Flaherty advocates for low-income Connecticut residents with mental health conditions.
"He spent a good hour listening to a whole group of people going around the table, saying 'what is it that you care about about this bill, what do you like, what do you not like,'" explained Flaherty.
Flaherty's work as an advocate stems from her own experience living with bipolar disorder and depression. "There were times I showed up at the pharmacy and all of a sudden, the medication that used to cost $10 all of a sudden costs $65," said Flaherty.
She said mental and physical health conditions are currently treated very differently than physical ones.
"Physical care, you can go to urgent care," said Flaherty. "You can't show up at the urgent care for a mental health condition."
She said mental health conditions are also more challenging for other people to understand.
"When people can't see something, it's hard to understand," said Flaherty. "There are no blood tests that can measure it. There's no X-ray you can take."
She is hopeful the new legislation is a positive step toward better coverage.
The Mental Health Reform Act, signed into law by President Obama on December 14, introduces reforms to make insurance companies cover mental illness more extensively, provides more funding for prevention, gives more rights to parents with adult children facing mental illness and creates more coordination between mental and physical health systems. It also provides $1 billion over two years for opioid treatment and prevention.