Mental Health Parity Act Provides Accessible Treatment to CT Residents

Published on July 9, 2019
Mountainside Canaan Aerial Shot

Canaan, CTMountainside treatment center celebrates new legislation signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont that will dramatically widen access to addiction and mental health services. The new law, known as the “Mental Health Parity Act,” will ensure affordable treatment and lifesaving care to individuals and families across Connecticut.

Mental health parity requires insurance companies to treat mental health conditions and substance use disorders the same as physical health issues. It aims to reduce the high costs associated with behavioral health treatment while destigmatizing addiction and co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

The bill introduces three significant changes to current mental health care laws in Connecticut. First, it prohibits insurance companies from placing restrictions on mental health and substance use disorder benefits. Additionally, insurance companies will be mandated to provide coverage for addiction treatment services, if required by a court. The legislation also holds insurance providers accountable by requiring them to file annual reports with the state to certify their compliance.

For over 21 years, Mountainside, located in Canaan, CT, has offered addiction treatment services and education to thousands of Connecticut residents in need. The treatment center recognizes that many more individuals, however, cannot access addiction support due to insurance restrictions. According to a 2017 report from SAMHSA, nearly 18.2 million Americans needed substance use treatment but did not receive it. Of those who did not attend treatment, approximately 33 percent cited a lack of health coverage.

Mountainside has long been a proponent of removing financial barriers to treatment. The trend has been especially burdensome in Connecticut, where mental health parity compliance rates have lagged behind the rest of the nation. The actuarial consulting firm Milliman found that the state’s out-of-network utilization rate for behavioral health claims was disproportionately high, reaching 34 percent, compared to just three percent for medical and surgical claims.

“We are very honored to have shared our insights on this critical issue with legislators prior to the crafting of this bill,” says Amy Sedgwick, Director of Clinical Operations at Mountainside. “As long-time advocates for mental health parity, we applaud the leadership of Governor Ned Lamont, Connecticut senators Matt Lesser, Saud Anwar, Catherine Osten, and Tony Hwang as well as all of the representatives who made this new law possible. They truly listened to the addiction treatment community, who are on the frontlines of this issue every day.”

Mountainside commends the legislators’ endeavors to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health disorders, urging other states to follow Connecticut’s example. “It’s a new dawn in Connecticut – one filled with hope for those who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders,” says Sedgwick.