Quality mental health care rights asserted

Groups representing more than 600,000 health and mental health professionals in February issued a "bill of rights" to protect individuals seeking treatment for mental illnesses and psychological and substance-abuse disorders.

This represents the first time that diverse professional organizations have come together to declare the right to quality mental health care, the groups claimed.

Dorothy Cantor, PsyD, president of the American Psychological Association, says the "present obsession of today’s health care system on controlling costs is compromising the rights of individuals to competent and quality care."

Bill mandates equal insurance coverage

The groups said the bill addresses shortfalls in today’s health care systems. It covers the individual’s right to full information about an insurance or managed care plan, confidentiality, choice of mental health professional, insurance equal to that available for other illnesses, a role in determining treatment, and plan accountability. It is being sent to all health and managed care organizations, consumer groups, and each member of Congress.

". . . [E]very day in our offices, we see the harm caused our patients who frequently are denied the care they need by managed care or insurance plan representatives who have never seen them, patients whose confidential medical records are not treated with respect and who often are not told of all the treatment options available to them — all in the name of controlling costs, which regularly turns out to be making profits at the expense of patients," says Harold I. Eist, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Association. "We hope that people will use the principles embodied in this bill of rights to demand and receive the care they need."

Other groups supporting the effort are the National Mental Health Association, the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.