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Feldman: While we acknowledge the significant progress that has been made in the past decades, we also must commit ourselves to advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill, speaking out against stigmatization and unequal treatment, and working to pass essential legislation, such as the Mental Health Parity Act, that will allow America’s mentally ill to be treated justly.
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Washington D.C.—In observance of the 16th World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2007, Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
In recognition of the 16th World Mental Health Day and Mental Illness Awareness Week, we renew our call to our nation’s leaders to help make the treatment of mental illness a national priority. An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older, or approximately 58 million people, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder each year. These members of our community deserve our support on this day and around the year.
Mental illnesses do not only affect the individual, but can also have a significant impact on their family, friends, and co-workers. Yet high costs and social stigmas still prevent 67% of adults and nearly 80% of children from getting the mental health care that they need. Part of the reason that these citizens do not receive adequate care is because many insurance companies treat mental health care differently from physical health care, imposing co-payments, deductibles or limits on outpatient visits that are more restrictive than those placed on physical illness.
We are heartened by the Senate’s recent unanimous passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S. 558), which would require insurers to provide the same level of coverage for the treatment of mental illnesses as they do for physical illnesses. It is imperative that the House adopt its companion bill, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 (H.R.1424), so that America’s mentally ill can receive the equitable treatment they deserve.
The traditional Jewish prayer for the sick asks for a refuah sheleimah—a complete recovery—for those who are ill with the words, “refuat ha-nefesh u'refuat haguf” —a healing of both the soul and of the body. Our tradition recognizes a distinction between the non-physical and the physical, and views them equally, recognizing that both are necessary for health and wholeness. Today, while we acknowledge the significant progress that has been made in the past decades, we also must commit ourselves to advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill, speaking out against stigmatization and unequal treatment, and working to pass essential legislation, such as the Mental Health Parity Act, that will allow America’s mentally ill to be treated justly. Only by achieving this long-overdue goal can we ensure that all Americans have the support and resources they need to realize their full potentials.