Gateway Foundation Testifies for Substance Abuse Treatment Parity at Chicago Field Hearing

Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment President and CEO Michael Darcy joined parity champions the Honorable Patrick Kennedy, the Honorable Jan Schakowsky and the Honorable Mike Quigley as well as treatment providers, local advocates and concerned citizens to testify regarding mental health and substance abuse parity inadequacies at the Chicago Congressional Field Hearing held on August 6, 2012, at the Union League Club.

It was an honor and a privilege for Gateway Foundation to be included as a co-sponsor of the Chicago Congressional Field Hearing on August 6, 2012, regarding landmark legislation that makes a significant difference in the lives of the people we treat at Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment.

Until the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act, even individuals who were fortunate enough to have private health insurance often found that their benefits for substance abuse treatment were not as generous as their benefits for medical treatment.

Although initial strides were made in 1996 with the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act, too many discrepancies continued to exist, particularly for addictions treatment. Discrepancies between medical and behavioral health benefits included greater financial obligations for behavioral health in the form of separate or higher co-pays and deductibles, as well as more restrictive treatment limitations in the form of annual and lifetime visit and dollar limitations. These restrictions posed significant barriers for many individuals whose recovery depended on accessible and affordable care.

It has been our experience at Gateway Foundation that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act has helped to break down some of these barriers for the people we treat and has opened the doors to the life-saving treatment services they so desperately need. To date, we have seen the benefits of the Act in the form of increased access to treatment. As a specific example, here in Illinois during the first month of parity implementation in August 2011, Gateway Foundation was able to obtain treatment for 11 working individuals who, despite having coverage with major insurance carriers, had previously been denied treatment for substance abuse by their health plans.

Without the benefit of the Act, these individuals would either have been shifted to public funding sources and had their treatment paid by Illinois taxpayers—or—if they didn’t qualify for public funding, they would have had to use personal resources. Sadly, some of these individuals wouldn’t have had personal resources and therefore simply would not have received treatment.

We are encouraged by examples such as these and the new access to treatment that the Act has afforded people who otherwise would have been denied treatment for substance abuse. Unfortunately, our experience suggests that not all of the financial barriers to mental health and substance abuse treatment have been removed. However, I’m confident that the level of commitment to full implementation of the Act evident in the participants of the Congressional Field Hearings will ensure that we will achieve parity for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

About Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers
Every year Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment helps thousands of adults and teens get their life back on track and gives renewed hope to those who care about them. With 50 years of treatment experience, our specialists take the time to understand of the specific needs of each individual. We then develop a customized treatment plan with recommendations for the most appropriate care based on an individual's substance abuse and mental health history. As the largest provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment in Illinois, Gateway has 11 treatment centers throughout the state. Gateway outpatient and residential substance abuse treatment programs are not one-size fits all, but unique treatment plans that give an individual the highest chance for a successful outcome. With insurance acceptance and a track record of success, Gateway Treatment Centers help thousands of individual’s successfully complete treatment each year, and find the hope they need to live again.

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