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MENTAL HEALTH PARITY PUSHED

About 200 marchers holding flashlights and lamps walked along Ashland Avenue at dusk as they hoped to draw attention to mental health issues, including a controversial bill that would require employers to carry more comprehensive mental health and substance abuse insurance coverage in Ohio.

State Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee) spoke at the United Autoworkers Union Local 12 Hall on Ashland and walked with mental health supporters during a candlelight vigil sponsored by the Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

Mr. Olman said he will introduce what is known as the mental health parity bill again next year. He said a strong group of opponents, led by House insurance committee chair Robert Netzley (R., Laura) kept the bill from passing.

He said Mr. Netzley, though, will leave the house in December because of term limits, hopefully giving the second mental health parity bill a better chance at passage.

"Next year will be the best year for us to pass mental health parity," Mr. Olman said. "The last component we need is you. It will be your responsibility to educate the new representatives. Your new representative will come in with a blank slate just like I did in 1995."

One of the controversies has centered around the cost of the state reforms, splitting opponents down party lines and placing Mr. Olman against many of his fellow Republicans in the House.

Mr. Olman pointed to a PricewaterhouseCoopers cost analysis that stated that insurance premiums would rise 3.1 per cent and would affect no more than 10,000 families.

"The issue of cost is no longer an issue," he said.

But opponents cite research from a conservative Ohio think tank, The Buckeye Institute for Policy Solutions, which states that between 30,000 and 120,000 Ohioans could lose their insurance benefits under the plan.

Mr. Olman said the additional coverage would limit the number of people who have to leave their jobs so they can get mental health coverage under Medicaid.

Marci Colton Dvorak, executive director of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said mental health is no different from any other disease that is fully covered by most insurers, but some companies treat it differently.

Twenty-nine other states have passed some sort of mental health parity legislation, Mr. Olman said.

The march started Mental Health Awareness Week and drew politicians such as State Sen. Linda Furney (D., Toledo), State Rep. Jeanine Perry (D., Toledo), her Republican opponent in the November election, John Garcia, and city councilman Art Jones.

Others spoke on dispelling myths about mental health issues and supporting those who suffer from mental health illnesses.

"I have learned that society takes advantage of our special children," said Rudy Lira, a long-time community activist who has relatives who suffer from mental illness. "We have to stand up for them. I learned we have to have patience and prudence to handle those situations."

All content © 2000 THE BLADE, TOLEDO, OHIO and may not be republished without permission.

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© Copyright 2008 State Representative Lynn Olman. All rights reserved.

 

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Paid for by the Citizens for Olman, Clayton Holt, Trea