Archives for January, 2013


Caring for the mentally ill: It’s going to cost money. Get over it.

I find it really ironic that we're being forced to look at the consequences of the horrendous lack of care and compassion we have shown the mentally ill while  many lawmakers and the "53 percent" are simultaneously doing their damnedest to cut what they call "entitlement" programs.

Have we really sunk so low as a society that it takes the death of twenty little kids and the six...
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Me, Depression and Lance

On Monday, June 30, 2003 I got an email from Lance Armstrong. He thanked me for an article I had written about how his battle with cancer had helped me get through my parents' illnesses and deaths.

I copied the email, framed it and hung it above the desk on my front porch where I write. I was proud of that email and the journalism awards it hung beside.

Last night I watched Lance admit he was a fraud, a bully and an all-around prick. He proved himself a megalomaniac. I counted t how many times he said "I'm sorry" on one finger. I will keep counting tonight, during the second-half of his interview.

Lance Armstrong was a very big part of a very bad part of my life. I believed his fairy tale with my whole heart. I needed to. In hindsight, Lance Armstrong didn't give me hope. I taught myself about hope and faith. Lance Armstrong was just the case study. Today, he has nothing. I still have my faith and hope and it is stronger than ever.

I watched every minute of every stage of every tour that he won. Sometimes I got up early and watched in the stage before I want to work. Then came home and watched it again. I, too, was an endurance athlete. I ran marathons, triathlons and swam countless laps, staring at the black line on the bottom of a swimming pool. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot - late for swim practice - on the phone with my mom, as she explained that her cancer had spread and there was little left they could do.

She died on March 6, 2003. In July, I took my daughter to Ireland, the homeland my mother never visited, and then to Paris and stood on the Champs Elysee to watch Lance win the 2003 Tour de France.  It was closure, I thought.

I got through my parents' deaths, the guilt I felt about being a 1,000 miles away and dumping to much of their care on my sister. I got through emptying the house where I grew up. I got through the funerals. I got through the will and the paperwork. And for a couple of years, I got through life.

Then I crashed. The deepest, darkest depression I had ever know. It felt like it would never end. But I had the hope and faith I had taught myself from all those years of watching Lance ride the tour. I used to give Lance Armstrong credit for my faith and hope. Not anymore.

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Guns and Parity: The president “intends” to do something about mental health

You may have missed #22 of  the 23 executive orders President Obama signed as part of his gun control package. It's the second to last paragraph on the last page of his plan.

• Finalize requirements for private health insurance plans to cover mental health services: The Administration will issue final regulations governing how existing group health plans that offer mental health services must cover them at parity under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. In addition, the Affordable Care Act requires all new small group and individual plans to cover ten essential health benefit categories, including mental health and substance abuse services. The Administration intends to issue next month the final rule defining these essential health benefits and implementing requirements for these plans to cover mental health benefits at parity with medical and surgical benefits.

Finally, the President of the United States says he "intends" to draft rules to implement our 4-year-old mental health parity law. It's not a promise but after four years of the administration failing to take action on the rules, I'll take an "intends."

What this means is that next month - February - we are finally going to see how the government will make sure that insurance companies provide the same level of care for mental illnesses as they do for physical illnesses. That means co-pays, deductibles, hospital stays, preventive care all must be equal to coverage for physical illnesses. Draft rules will be published in the Federal Register, followed by a public comment period and then issuance of the final rules.

Insurance companies don't want these rules. As long as there are no rules, they can play their game, their way. No referees, no fouls, no penalties. That's the way it's been since the law was passed four years ago.

I have been writing about parity for five years. Maybe more. In the words of former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, mental health parity is the greatest civil rights health issue of our time.

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What about the privacy rights of young adults with mental illnesses?

On December 27, while we polished-off the rest of the Christmas cookies and wondered where John Boehner found the time to get to the tanning salon amid fiscal cliff negotiations, something happened in Washington that went unnoticed.

California Congresswoman Laura Richardson, who had been defeated in November and was on her way out the door, introduced the “Elgin Stafford Mental Illness Information Disclosure Act of 2012” or “Elgin’s Law”. The bill would require the disclosure to parents of information regarding mental illness treatment for their children under the age of 26.

Who is Elgin Stafford? I didn't know either. Seems news of the suicide of a young man with mental health problems doesn't grab as many headlines as a young man who slaughters a bunch of others with an assault rifle before taking his own life. But Elgin Stafford and the law introduced in his honor raise controversial issues that could touch the lives of countless parents and mental health professionals whose efforts to caution others about the behavior of troubled young adults is often hampered by privacy laws.

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