For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 29, 2002
Fact Sheet: Improving Access to Quality Mental Health Care
Today's Presidential Action
In a speech at the University of New Mexico, President Bush today
announced his plans to improve access to quality, effective mental
health care. The President announced that he will work to pass federal
mental health parity legislation to eliminate disparities in the
coverage of mental health benefits.
The President also announced the formation of the President's New
Freedom Commission on Mental Health to develop recommendations on
improving the nation's mental health service delivery system.
Background on Today's Presidential Action
Each year, millions of Americans suffer from mental illness.
Many adults and children are significantly disabled by severe and
persistent mental illness. Untreated mental illness is a great
The stigma of mental illness often discourages patients from
seeking care despite the existence of new drugs and therapies that have
vastly improved the chances for effective treatment and recovery.
Without access to necessary and effective quality care, far too many
Americans will live with untreated mental illness that too often can
lead to homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction or incarceration.
Parity in Mental Health Benefits
Despite the advances that have been made in the science of mental
health treatment, many health plans unfairly treat coverage for mental
health benefits by imposing copayments, deductibles or limits on
outpatient visits that are more restrictive than those placed on
The President has a history of supporting parity legislation. In
1997 as Governor of Texas, he signed legislation into law that required
plans to provide fair treatment to patients with severe mental
The President will work with Senator Domenici and other leaders
in the House and Senate to reach an agreement on mental health parity
legislation that can pass Congress and be signed into law. The
legislation must prevent plans from applying less generous treatment or
financial limitations on mental health benefits than are imposed on
medical or surgical benefits.
The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health
Currently, numerous Federal, State and local government entities
oversee mental health programs, policy, funding and the diverse network
of public and private providers. More efficient organization and
coordination could assist these providers in ensuring effective
treatment is received by those in need.
To address this issue, President Bush is establishing the
President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. The Commission
will be composed of fifteen members, appointed by the President, and
seven ex-officio members from executive branch agencies. The
Commission will identify the needs of patients, the barriers to care,
and investigate community-based care models that have success in
coordinating and providing mental health services. The Commission will
have one year to recommend immediate improvements that can be
implemented by all aspects of the public and private mental health
system to improve coordination and quality of services with existing