State lawmakers explore ways to expand mental health services

The Governor’s opioid taskforce plans to release their findings and recommendations next month

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Federal and state parity laws require health insurance companies to cover mental health and substance abuse treatment at the same level as other medical services. Health Law Advocates’ Laura Goodman told 22News, that’s not always the case. She said, “we have those laws in place, but they’re not enforced to the extent that they should be. We still see violations; we still see consumers who are unable to get the care that they need.”

State lawmakers are exploring ways to make treatment services more accessible to those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. Massachusetts saw more than 1,000 opioid-related deaths in 2014. One state representative believes a shortage in treatment services and beds may have contributed to a spike in overdose deaths.

State Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton), a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse said, “there are a lot of problems and certainly there are addicts that seek help and are pushed off for a day, two days, and for an addict that can be a death sentence.”

Combating mental illness and substance abuse has become a top priority for the state, as more people open up about their struggles.

“I think stigma is beginning to be addressed. I think people are being more open to the challenges they face relative to their own mental health,” said State Department of Mental Health Commissioner Joan Mikula.

The Governor’s opioid taskforce plans to release their findings and recommendations next month.

 

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