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Reform Jewish Movement Calls for Enactment of Mental Health Parity Legislation

Pelavin: Were insurance companies to limit the treatment of asthma, diabetes, or cancer patients, we would be outraged. We are similarly alarmed and horrified that health plans do limit access to necessary mental health treatment.

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

Washington, June 6, 2002 - Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement in support of the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act (H.R. 4066/S. 543) at the Mental Health PARITY NOW Rally at the U.S. Capitol.

The complete statement follows:


The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), representing 1800 Reform rabbis, are proud to support the Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act (H.R. 4066/S. 543). We join Representatives Marge Roukema (R-NJ) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN), and the thousands of advocates here today in calling on Congress to enact meaningful mental health parity legislation. We must put an end to the discriminatory practices of health plans against the mentally ill.

For too long, we have marginalized and ignored mental illness. Though nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from mental illness in any given year, people with mental illness still face ridicule, stigmatization, and exclusion. The fact that we allow health plans to sustain and bolster this stigmatization by discriminating against the mentally ill is reprehensible. Were insurance companies to limit the treatment of asthma, diabetes, or cancer patients, we would be outraged. We are similarly alarmed and horrified that health plans do limit access to necessary mental health treatment. These patients, like all human beings, deserve full, quality health care.

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).

Jewish tradition teaches that when there is a way to alleviate suffering, not to do so is to deny our responsibility to humankind. We urge Congress to pass H.R. 4066/S. 543 and ensure mental health parity for the millions of Americans suffering from mental illness.

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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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