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June 7, 1999

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“As a nation founded on the ideal of equality, it is high time that America's health plans serve all Americans equally. We must make it clear once and for all: mental illness is no different from physical illness – and our nation's health plans should provide both with the same quality coverage.”

President Bill Clinton
June 7, 1999

Today, in Washington, D.C., President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President and Mrs. Gore participated in the White House Conference on Mental Health. The Administration unveiled new proposals to provide parity, improve treatment, bolster research, and expand community responses to help those with mental illnesses.

Unveiling New Initiatives to Address Mental Health. At today's White House Conference on Mental Health, the Clinton-Gore Administration unveiled unprecedented initiatives to support those with mental illnesses. Highlights of these initiatives include:

  • Ensuring that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, the nation's largest private insurer, implements full mental health and substance abuse parity;
  • Launching a national school safety training program for teachers, school personnel, and community members;
  • Accelerating progress in mental health research with a landmark study by the National Institute of Mental Health;
  • Encouraging states to offer more coordinated Medicaid services for people with mental illness;
  • Launching a pilot program to help people with mental illness get the quality treatment they need to return to work;
  • Educating older Americans and their health professionals about the risks of depression;
  • Initiating new efforts to reach out to homeless Americans suffering from mental illnesses;
  • Implementing new strategies to meet the mental health needs of crime victims;
  • Educating the criminal justice community on preventing crime by mentally ill people, addressing the needs of offenders with mental illness, and better serving people with mental health needs;
  • Initiating a new comprehensive approach to address combat stress in the military;
  • Launching the expansion of the “Caring For Every Child” campaign, which identifies and supports children with mental illness; and
  • Addressing the mental health needs of Native American youth, whose suicide rate is three times higher than the rest of the U.S. population in the same age group.

Challenging Congress to Pass Mental Health Legislation. In an effort to improve care and services for people with mental illness, the Administration urged Congress to:

  • Pass the Work Incentives Improvement Act, which would enable people with disabilities to return to work while having access to affordable health insurance;
  • Hold hearings on the mental health parity law to review its strengths and weaknesses;
  • Fund the historic $70 million increase in the mental health grant;
  • Pass a strong, enforceable patients' bill of rights which ensures that people with mental health needs obtain critical protections such as access to specialists and continuity of care; and
  • Pass strong, comprehensive privacy legislation to eliminate genetic discrimination.

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