Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 4: Work & the Self @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Eric had leadership written all over him. Intelligence, good looks, and interpersonal drive had led to an MBA at a major university. When his first business venture failed, he was on to another that succeeded. Several other business successes followed, as did personal leadership projects undertaken at church and in his community.

He was politically active both locally and nationally. His wife and children were also achievers,  but a sense of balance was missing from his life.. He suffered two major depressions in his adult life and another as retirement age approached and he was confronted with financial difficulties and the interpersonal consequences of chronic over-extension. His retirement was forced and he was emotionally adrift.

Disordered Thinking 
“The driver for many who lack balance in their lives is disordered thinking about the relationship of work to self and God,” Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D. says.

Although he recognizes that striving for a balance between personal and professional domains facilitates development in both, Josephson has something else in mind when he considers this kind of disordered thinking. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 3: Narcissism @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

It goes without saying that narcissists have an inflated view of themselves, one that frequently masks a hidden sense of emptiness and inferiority. What’s not so obvious, according to Laity Leadership Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D., is that those who are in relationship with a narcissist “by definition become depleted or depressed, because life always has to reflect the grandeur, the beauty, the intelligence of the narcissist.”

The key hallmark of narcissism is a lack of empathy, Josephson said. Empathy is when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes as much as is humanly possible and try to understand what their world is like. Good parents empathize with their children, and spouses in healthy marriages empathize with each other.

“Narcissists can’t do it. It’s like they have a mirror in front of their face.  At this extreme, the narcissist’s view is all that matters. ‘It’s all about them,’” he said.

Predictably, relationships for narcissists, both personal and professional, tend to be short lived. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 2: Scriptural Principles for Growing Healthy Children @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Parenting is hard, and not just because we struggle to balance work and family. The stakes are high. We parents all raise our children, hoping they will become spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy adults. We look for answers from pastors, pediatricians, and parenting “experts,” but we should not neglect the wisdom of mental health professionals.

Healthy child development reflects God’s character and purposes, says Laity Leadership Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D., and Scripture provides guidelines that children desperately need.

In his 1994 paper, “A Clinical Theology of the Developmental Process: A Child Psychologist’s Perspective,” Josephson outlines eight areas of child development that not only illustrate his theology, but also offer sound parenting principles.

To learn more about these principles, go to The High Calling.

Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 1 @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

When Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D. decided to study psychiatry 30 years ago, persons of faith often wondered how he would fare as a Christian in the field. The influence of Sigmund Freud’s atheism has waned, Josephson said, but it was pervasive then.

Josephson not only survived, but flourished and became an agent of change. Today, he is Vice Chairman for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Services at the University of Louiseville School of Medicine in Louiseville, Kentucky, and author of three books. One of them is the Handbook of Spirituality and Worldview in Clinical Practice, a text he edited and contributed to that is used in psychiatric residency programs to help psychiatrists understand the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of their own and their patients’ worldviews. …

In this series we’re going to tap into Josephson’s wisdom to explore this theme as it relates to:

  • How healthy child development mirrors Scriptural principles.
  • What children need in the contemporary family for healthy development.
  • Why there is an increase in people, particularly children and adolescents, who exhibit narcissistic behavior, and what can be done about it.
  • The psychological effects of technology.
  • How work defines the self.

Both psychology and theology have much to say about these topics. We hope you’ll join us for the discussion.

You can read more about Dr. Josephson’s journey at The High Calling.

A Fitting Tribute

Opening Ceremony at The Overnight Walk, NYC, 6/4-5/11
Over the weekend, my niece and I joined 2000+ suicide survivors for the 18 mile Overnight Walk through New York City. A record $2.5 million was raised for suicide prevention, research, and survivor support services. Our team contributed more than $5000 to the pot.

Lumaire dedicated to Gabe at The Overnight Walk, NYC, June 4-5/11

People assume, I think, that I write about Gabriel’s suicide and raise money for causes related to it, because doing so aides in my healing, or redeems the horrific reality, or brings meaning to my life. In reality, exposing this wound exacts an emotional toll that I’m increasingly unwilling to pay.

I shouldn’t be writing about my son killing himself; I should be writing about how he’s taking the world by storm with his many talents and passions.

What? by Gabriel G. Scheller

I’m sure Mariel Hemingway would rather talk about her grandfather’s literature than his suicide too. But there she was at the Overnight Walk speaking eloquently and tearfully to the crowd about her pain, and filming a documentary about suicide, because, I think, she recognizes the danger to the rest of her family (including her daughter) in not talking about its legacy of suicide.

She wants it to stop.

Mariel Hemingway and her daughter at The Overnight Walk, NYC, 6/4-5/11

In the last four years, with the help of both loved ones and strangers, I’ve raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 for causes related to Gabriel’s death, not because it’s fulfilling, but because I felt compelled to do something to stop the pain for others.

NF Endurance Team 2008

Now don’t hold me to this statement if I change my mind, but I think I’m done with public fundraising campaigns that draw attention to my loss. This means no more big events that require $1000 minimum fundraising goals in order to participate, unless I can afford to write a $1000 check myself. It was incredibly difficult, for example, to tell my neighbors that I was hosting a block party to raise money for suicide prevention because my son killed himself.

Overnight Walk Block Party 026

It was a great party, but I really hated exposing myself like that. I don’t want to do it again.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve given to one or more of my fundraising campaigns, I offer my sincere gratitude. Your money was well spent, so well spent in fact that I hope you’ll keep giving to The Children’s Tumor Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention until neurofibromatosis and mental illness no longer threaten the well being of those whose lives they touch.

However, instead of continuing to focus on Gabriel’s death, in my new position as News & Religion editor at, I’ll honor his life. He cared deeply about the issues Urban Faith reports on, so I think it’s a fitting, subtle tribute to work on these issues too.

I’ll be updating the site too frequently to post links to my articles as they’re published, but I’ll try to post a weekly update. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

There’s much more to come.

As you read my words at Urban Faith, it can be our little secret that they’re written for Gabe.

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light for Suicide Prevention @NJShorePatch

Remembering my son and walking off my grief with other survivors.

gabe art photoMonday, March 28 will mark the third anniversary of my son Gabriel’s death by suicide. Instead of wallowing in the grief that continues to haunt my life, I’ve decided to walk it off this year.

Not literally, of course, because one doesn’t shake this kind of loss, but in real ways that do me and others good I am walking off the stigma and ignorance that suicide inspires.

Right now I’m in training. Come June, I’ll join thousands of other suicide survivors to walk 18 miles from dusk until dawn at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s annual Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk.

As the name suggests, the walk is a fundraiser that seeks to bring the issue of suicide “out of the darkness and into the light.” This year, it will be held in New York City on June 4-5. If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide or just want to support efforts to prevent the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, I hope you’ll join me!

Here’s why …

To find out the answer, go to one of the NJ Shore Patch sites.

One Church Said Yes to Perinatal Wellness @NJShorePatch

Rachel McKibben’s experience with Postpartum Psychosis inspired her to accept help on behalf of others.

Regional Perinatal Consortium of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (RPCMOC) health educator Amy Goldberg mailed 600 fliers to local religious organizations offering her program on pregnancy related emotional wellness.

One person responded.

That person was Rachel McKibben, director of youth and family ministries at Trinity Episcopal Church in Red Bank. For McKibben, the flier didn’t just represent another ministry opportunity; it was a highly personal invitation to do something about an issue that has shaped her own life.

McKibben is one of a tiny percentage of women who have experienced Postpartum Psychosis.  Although she had no history of mental illness and no symptoms after her first pregnancy, she did have some risk factors for Postpartum Depression (PPD)….

To find out how Rachel dealt with this terrifying experience, and what the signs, symptoms, and solutions are for PPD, go here, or here, or here, or one of the other Jersey Shore sites.

Cross-post from NF Endurance Team blog: Why Gabe Will Always Be My NF Hero

It’s a rare photo in which Gabe appears depressed. He was known for his boisterous, charismatic personality. But, from the time he left home for college, he struggled with depression. This photo was taken at my husband’s graduation from a pastoral training program in June 2004. Gabe would have just finished his freshman year at Wheaton College in Illinois.

I write about his depression because, as Endurance Team members, we are focused on overcoming and suicide seems like the antithesis of that. One thing I’d really like to accomplish through my involvement with the team is to help others overcome faulty ideas about depression and suicide. Ideas that I myself once held.

Not long before Gabriel died, I joined the CTF group on Facebook. A young woman posted a comment on the group wall about studies linking NF to psychiatric difficulties. I didn’t think much about it until after Gabe died. Then I began doing research and found one of the studies she may have been referring to. Here it is from PubMed:

Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is often associated with psychiatric disorders, which are more frequent in NF1 than in general population (33% of patients). Dysthymia is the most frequent diagnosis (21% of patients). There is also a high prevalence of depressive mood (7%), anxiety (1-6%), and personality (3%) disorders. The risk of suicide is four times greater than in the general population. Bipolar mood disorders or schizophrenia appear to be rare. The impaired quality of life associated with NF1 may play an important role in the development of psychiatric disorders. Quality of life assessments may help to identify a population at high risk.

Dysthymia can be defined as depression; despondency or a tendency to be despondent. It certainly describes Gabe at increasingly frequent intervals in the last year of his life. In another study, researchers found no link between the severity of familiar NF symptoms and the severity of psychiatric ones, indicating that something neurological might be going on rather than simple despair over the condition itself.

Since 2002, I have written for a magazine called Christianity Today. One of my articles was about Gabe and a couple others mentioned him. Because I had encountered a good deal of both ignorance and empathy after his suicide, I wrote about his death for the magazine. You can read that article here. It traces a bit of family history, does some education and poses the possibility that Gabe was suffering from bipolar disorder, which a couple of mental health professionals suggested after reading his suicide notes and journal entries. I’m ambivalent about this post-mortem analysis though, because the impulsivity that correlates with his attention deficit disorder combined with his undiagnosed dysthymia could be mistaken for bipolar.

Long before I had a thought about any of this, I wrote about Gabe’s NF in Christianity Today. That article was an investigation into human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. Through it, I met my friend and NF Endurance Team partner David Brick. David is an hESC researcher at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, CA. When we were training for the Long Beach Half Marathon last year, David did some reading of his own on NF. He found something about the involvement of mast cells in NF. Mast cells are also indicated in asthma and allergies. This got me wondering if Gabe’s severe asthma might also have been a function of his NF. Instead of suffering from three separate diseases—NF, asthma and depression—was he really only suffering symptoms of one nasty disorder? I’d like to know the answer to this question.

The point of my writing about this here is both to alert CTF to these possibilities and to say that Gabe was for all of his life a true NF Hero. He overcame challenges that many of us will never face. The father from whom he inherited neurofibromatosis never acknowledged him and chose not to be a part of his life. He dealt with race issues as well, and was frequently sick and isolated with asthma. NF was always in the background as a concern. And yet, Gabe was incredibly accomplished. You can read about his many accomplishments here.

In one of his suicide notes, he wrote that as much as he kept trying to “pull himself up into the world of real people,” he felt dead inside. That feeling is not failure or a lack of courage; it’s a symptom of clinical depression. A symptom that he did not recognize had a treatment. A symptom he hid well in his lifelong habit of being an overcomer. A symptom I did not understand.

For the sake of others suffering such symptoms, I want to challenge the NF Endurance Team and its members to recognize that our message shouldn’t exclude those suffering from mental illness. Death by suicide is a preventable tragedy, not a lack of character. While we want to be careful not to romanticize or idealize those who die by suicide, we also want to remember that the vast majority of people who take their own lives die from mental illness that is no fault of their own.

So, here’s to my NF Hero, Gabriel Gifford Scheller!

Update: The NYC Half Marathon is just 10 days away and I’ve only raised $350 of my $1000 goal. If you’d like to help me answer the question posed in this post, you can support my efforts here, or you can send a check to: The Children’s Tumor Foundation 95 Pine Street, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10005.

Speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.


I spend a good deal of time defending evangelicals, both in the real world and in the virtual one. I’ve begun to realize, however, that I’m often defending aspects of evangelicalism that I don’t care for myself. For example, in a discussion that followed my Her.meneutics post on “Hooking Up,” I defended followers of Bill Gothard against some rabid criticism, even though I deplore the sort of legalism Gothard represents. And last year, at Brandeis University, as one of two evangelicals amidst a dozen or more religion journalists doing a fellowship on Judaism, I repeatedly defended evangelicals against negative stereotypes that I myself have pondered in print.

I bring this up because, now that I’m home, I don’t fit easily in some of my old evangelical circles. Not that I ever did, but it’s been a while since I’ve been immersed in certain of our popular religious practices. I find myself shocked at things I once gave ne’er a thought to. I had hoped, for instance, that attending a Bible study led by a dear friend and wonderful teacher would bring me comfort. Unfortunately, I don’t care for the Bible study material we are using. It wants to turn the Bible into a self-help manual and its characters into heroes, and I don’t. I’m also tired of studying the Bible to extrapolate every last ounce of possible meaning out of it. It follows then that I don’t want to rip it into shreds and remake it in my own image. I mostly just want to read it for the comfort and correction I find in it.  So, there’s that and then the study group is composed of women from both sides of two church splits I lived through. There’s nothing awkward in this, except that I get a clear picture of where I’ve been and see pretty clearly that I no longer belong there.  I love and appreciate those places, but rarely find comfort in their forms of worship, whereas I always find comfort in the Anglican liturgy. Always. Never once in my three years as an Anglican has it failed to do its work on me. I live for Sunday worship because Sunday worship imbues me with the power and peace I need to live. (Worship is about God, but it gives back.)

I mention this because it relates to the topic at hand. That topic is pain. Deep, abiding psychic, spiritual, emotional pain that sometimes lasts for days on end.

Last night I was in that kind of pain, and so I picked up Nancy Guthrie’s book, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow. I’m skeptical, not of Nancy mind you, but of my evangelical tribe’s tendency toward weak tea. I began reading nonetheless.

In chapter 3, she deals with those who would suggest that our children ( hers, and mine by inference) who died would have been healed if only we (or they) had had more faith. Nancy chose the story of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1: 40-42 as her text for dealing with this issue. She came across the passage in the months after her daughter Hope died and says it hurt her feelings to think that Jesus was not willing to heal her child. I know exactly what she means. On the morning Gabe died, I said something to God that I don’t recall ever saying to Him before. I lay in my bed, and said, “God, if I were honest, I’d tell you I don’t think you love me anymore. How could you let my children …” A little while later, I said something harsh to Gabe about him wearing a dirty, smelly shirt to work again, and then went for a long prayer walk so that I could get my thoughts back in line with the truth of God’s word and affirm my trust in His love for me and my children. Before the day was done, my son was dead.

Nancy’s implicit trust in God led her to dig deeper into the Scripture to find out what Jesus was really communicating through his miracles (particularly the healing miracles). She came to the conclusion that if Jesus’s healing ministry had been mostly about healing physical sickness, it would have been more pervasive and central to his focus. Also, physical healing is by nature temporary and God didn’t come to earth for a temporary fix. In John 20: 30-31, we learn that the purpose of Jesus’s miracles is that we might believe, and believing, “have life by the power of his name.” Jesus’s priority was our deliverance from the ultimate source of our suffering and that is the sin that separates us from God. About the fall, Nancy writes:

Into the purity of the world God created, sin brought a poison that penetrated everything. And into the relationship we enjoyed with God, sin built a barrier. We went from being at peace with God to feeling threatened by him. Guilt and fear took over where innocence and openness had once ruled.

Ever been there? I have, at least once in the past 24 hours. And yet, she reminds us,

There is a day coming when death and disease will be healed for good. That is our sure hope in the midst of sorrow.

The passage that penetrated my pain last night is this one:

When Jesus said, “I am willing. Be healed!” to the leper, he was saying that he wants to cleanse us from the pervasive sin that will prove eternally fatal without his healing touch.

And now I realize that Jesus turns toward me when I call out to him for healing. Now I can hear him lovingly responding to me, saying, “I am willing. Be healed.” He is at work in my life, bringing healing to the wounded places where sin has left its ugly mark. He certainly isn’t finished yet, but I know the day is coming when his work in me will be complete.

I’ve also come to peace realizing that Jesus did not withhold his healing touch from Hope or Gabe. He has taken them to himself and will, at the resurrection, give them glorious bodies (Philippians 3:21). And this is no get-God-off-the-hook cop-out. It is everything we would ask for and long for.

It is the last paragraph that stuck with me as I went into today. I don’t want get-God-off-the-hook cop-outs. I want the truth. And the truth is that Gabe’s brain was sick from neurofibromatosis, from years of asthma-related oxygen deprivation, from inordinate guilt emanating from suicidal depression, from … The truth is his resurrected body will be tumor-free. The truth is the impulsivity and feelings of aggression that are common to both NF patients and suicide victims will be gone forever. The truth is he will breathe easy and never again have to say no to an invitation because of a household pet. The truth is he now knows and will for all eternity know that he is loved and lovable and lovely. The truth is it’s not my fault.

I didn’t process all of that last night. I simply held the last paragraph in my mind and went to sleep. This morning, I was still in pain.  At church, neither the opening hymns nor the visiting priest bade well for healing, and yet heal the liturgy did. I took note when the priest used alternate phrasing in the prayer we say before taking communion. Phrasing that echoes what Nancy wrote about from Mark 1. It is a sentence that I silently add every week and keep wishing our rector would use instead of the other. It is a piece of the reason why the liturgy never fails to do its work on me. There is power in the prayer:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.

He is willing, and so I am healed when I take his body and blood into my own in faith. There is power in the blood. One mustn’t forget that. Afterwards, we echoed these sentiments again as we sang the African-American Spiritual, There is a Balm in Gilead. It goes:

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, “He died for all.”

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. …

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work has been in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. I cannot preach like Peter; I grapple with too many negative triggers and questions. I cannot pray like Paul; I don’t know how anymore, except in the most general terms. I can tell the love of Jesus though, and say, “He died for all.” For all the broken, battered and bruised. For all the sin-sick lonely souls. For all the high and mighty liars. For all the orphaned, starving children. For me. For you. For Nancy. For her Gabe. For mine. For evangelicals and our critics.  For every tribe—past, present and future. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Notice, if you will, that the day’s healing was found in drinking from deep evangelical wells.

Racing for Research Again!



Guess who’s walk/jogging for neurofibromatosis research again? You’ve got it! I landed a coveted spot on the NF Endurance Team for the New York City Half-Marathon on August 16th, which doesn’t leave me much time to train or fund raise. If you helped us raise more than $4500 last year, thanks! If you weren’t able to give then and are able to now, here’s a word from team coordinator Bob Skold on why you should go ahead and write that check:

Recent advances in NF research are moving us significantly closer to reaching the goal of FDA-approved treatments for neurofibromatosis (NF). Research grant monies are now being used to fund basic and translational research with an eye on developing drug therapies.  Dr. Bruce Korf, one of the foremost NF research scientists states, “We now more or less understand the activity of the NF gene in the cell and are beginning to use that information to develop new treatments. I believe we’re at a point where we can look forward to effective treatments for NF1, NF2 and Schwannomatosis in the reasonable near future.”

The NFET is the largest CTF program funding NF research; indeed all donations to the NF Endurance Team are restricted for use in the CTF science and research programs. The NFET continues its commitment to advancing NF Research, now providing close to 1/3 of the funds to support the annual CTF research budget.  Following last year’s record $1.2 million raised, we are pleased to continue with this level of projected funding and to apply team donations to partially fund promising and top-priority CTF research initiatives in 2009.

For more specific information please go to our Team Fundraising Dollars at Work section on our Team web page. Our Team’s fund-raising success is an investment that can offer a world of possibilities to someone with NF. We are helping solve the NF Puzzle one mile at a time, one clinical trial at a time, one potential drug therapy at a time.

In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine just published a study that promises hope for NF 2 sufferers, like Bob. He has lost most of his hearing from the disorder.

I’ll keep you posted as to my progress. I hope to raise at least $1000 and to better my time from Long Beach by at least 30 minutes. You can get to know some of my team-mates at the team blog. I’ll be contributing there as well.

Here’s the link to my fund raising page. All you need to make a difference is a credit card and a willing heart!

Here are my previous posts on NF.

Thanks again to our newest NF heroes


These sponsors helped us raise $2,640 for The Children’s Tumor Foundation:


Mr. Jeff Scheller

Ms. Florence Anne Kohut

Mr. Aiden Long

Mr. and Mrs. Bruce C. Neary

Mr. and Mrs. John H. Oostdyk

Mr. Albert J. Stahl

Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Speight

Mr. Roy Larsen

Mr. and Mrs. Bruce V. Koczman

Mr. and Mrs. James W. McCombs

Mr. Richard D. Kroll

Mr. Greg Cambeis

Ms. Kathleen Sommers

Ms. Katy Laundrie

Ms. Amy Zambrano

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gifford

Mr. Rob Moll

Mr. Gary Gnidovic

Mr. and Mrs. Dan Carver

Mr. Richard Heffner

Ms. Dee Lamorte

Ms. Judy Scheller

Mr. and Mrs. Philip Benyola

Ms. Heidi Peck

Mr. and Mrs. Carleton W. Westerlund

Ms. Cherie Carl

Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas P. San Filippo

Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Mack, Sr.

Mr. and Mrs. John J. Bogosian

Mr. and Mrs. Roger L. Faulkenbury

Mr. and Mrs. James J. Jensen

Mr. and Mrs. Michael Trapani

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Smith

Ms. Sara Mummolo

Dr. and Mrs. Gary S. Cuozzo

Mr. Tony Papalia



Here is the summary of another study that I’ll be including in my letter to The Children’s Tumor Foundation to encourage them to better educate and support families in regard to ALL possible outcomes of this debilitating disease.

NF1: Psychiatric Disorders and Quality of Life Impairment

Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is often associated with psychiatric disorders, which are more frequent in NF1 than in general population (33% of patients). Dysthymia* is the most frequent diagnosis (21% of patients). There is also a high prevalence of depressive mood (7%), anxiety (1-6%), and personality (3%) disorders. The risk of suicide is four times greater than in the general population. Bipolar mood disorders or schizophrenia appear to be rare. The impaired quality of life associated with NF1 may play an important role in the development of psychiatric disorders. Quality of life assessments may help to identify a population at high risk.

*Dysthymia — depression; despondency or a tendency to be despondent

Thanks again friends! May your generosity be returned a hundred-fold!

Victory on Parity

From NAMI:

Victory on Parity!

October 3, 2008

By a vote of 263-171, the House this afternoon gave final approval to the Paul Wellstone-Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (HR 1424).  President Bush is expected to signed the legislation late today or early tomorrow.

A Triumph for Consumers and Families

This victory in the House ends a nearly 20 year effort to require group health plans to cover treatment for mental illness on the same terms and conditions as all other illnesses.  NAMI is extremely grateful for the tireless work of advocates from all over the nation that contacted their Senators and House members to push for this landmark legislation.  The advocacy voice of people living with mental illness and their families made a tremendous difference in securing this long sought victory.

NAMI also salutes the leadership of the sponsors of parity in Congress including Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN).  Today NAMI also remembers the contributions of the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) in bringing parity forward.  After nearly 20 years, their efforts have resulted in mental illness treatment no longer being subject to 2nd class status in our health care system.

What Happens Next?

President Bush is expected to sign HR 1424 very quickly in order to restore confidence in sagging credit markets.  The parity law becomes effective 1-year after enactment of the bill.  This will mean that group health plans will no longer be able to impose limits on inpatient days or outpatient visits or require higher deductibles or cost sharing for mental illness or addiction treatment that are not also applied to all other medical-surgical coverage.

There is a special effective date rule for collective bargaining agreements that would delay imposition of the parity requirements until the next collective bargaining contract goes into effect.  The law requires that the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury issue regulations within 1 year, although failure to issue such regulations will not delay the effective date of parity.

In the coming weeks, NAMI will be developing educational materials and guidelines on how parity will impact insurance coverage for consumers and families.  For now, NAMI advocates can celebrate a landmark achievement!