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Reform Jewish Movement Commends President Bush for His Commitment to Assure Passage of Mental Health

Heller and Pelavin: We wholeheartedly agree with you that "[o]ur country must make a commitment: Americans with mental illness deserve our understanding, and they deserve excellent care. They deserve a health care system that treats their illness with the same urgency as a physical illness."


Contact: Alexis Rice or Julie Silverman 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2002 - In a letter today to President Bush, Robert Heller, Chair of the Commission on Social Action and Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, applauded the President for his leadership in supporting an end to insurance discrimination against those with mental illness.

The full text of the letter sent to the President follows:

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the 900 congregations of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), encompassing over 1.5 million Reform Jews in North America, we write to commend you for your recent remarks concerning the enactment of mental health parity legislation.

As you correctly note, many health plans unfairly treat coverage for mental health benefits by imposing co-payments, deductibles or limits on outpatient visits that are more restrictive than those placed on physical illness. This discrimination against those with mental illness is flatly unacceptable. We wholeheartedly agree with you that "[o]ur country must make a commitment: Americans with mental illness deserve our understanding, and they deserve excellent care. They deserve a health care system that treats their illness with the same urgency as a physical illness."

Judaism recognizes that both a healthy body and a healthy mind are necessary for human beings to be complete. Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar, physician, and philosopher, taught that when a person is overpowered by "imagination, prolonged meditation, and avoidance of social contact," the physician must first treat these symptoms of mental illness before addressing the patient's physical ailments. Likewise, the traditional mi she-beirach prayer for the sick calls for a complete recovery (refuah sheleima), a healing of both the soul and the body (refuat ha-nefesh u-refuat haguf).

At our Biennial convention in December 2001, the 5,000 delegates adopted a major new policy statement, "Establishing a Comprehensive System of Care for Persons with Mental Illness." (A copy is attached.) The resolution calls, in part, for "federal and state legislation in the United States to require parity between physical and mental health coverage by health insurance carriers, both private and public, similar to the system of universal comprehensive mental health coverage in Canada."

On behalf of the Reform Movement, we thank you for taking a leadership role on this issue and look forward to working with you to ensure mental health parity for the millions of Americans suffering from mental illness.

Sincerely,

/s/
Robert Heller
Chair, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

/s/
Mark J. Pelavin
Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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