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PRESS RELEASE- Downing, Senate Move to Expand Access to Oral Health and Mental Health Services
July 25, 2008

BostonOn Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate advanced critical legislation to improve the health and vitality of Massachusetts residents, endorsing measures to expand access to oral health and mental health services. 


“Final passage of these essential bills will provide patients with affordable access to critical services that ensure better health and quality of life,” said State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield).  “These bills endorse coverage of preventative treatments and early detection of physical and mental conditions that, if left untreated, have shown to be detrimental to our health and well-being.”


The oral health legislation passed will greatly expand access to preventative dental care services in underserved areas of the Commonwealth. The bill creates a new category of “public health dental hygienists” within the Department of Public Health to reduce oral health disparities throughout the state and provide equitable services for all residents.


The Senate also advanced legislation that will expand the scope of the existing Mental Health Parity law to assure coverage for additional mental-health-related conditions, including autism. The law and current bill are meant to equal out coverage for mental health and substance abuse with typical coverage for physical conditions. The bill updates the current list of nine biologically-based mental health conditions covered by the Parity Law to include coverage of four more conditions: eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse and autism.


The nine conditions already covered under the Mental Health Parity Law are: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, paranoia and other psychotic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, delirium and dementia, and affective disorders.


In a related vote, the Senate on July 15 passed a bill to improve the early identification of children with mental illnesses by reaching them in familiar settings, such as pediatrician offices, early education programs and schools.


All three bills are pending action by the House of Representatives.




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