With the 2019 General Assembly session upon us, the lens of the legislation will undoubtedly narrow to focus on some of the biggest issues facing our state including the budget, highway tolling, and the minimum wage. While it may seem reasonable to accept that exerting energies on these issues alone will help Connecticut and its citizens advance, it would mark a grossly missed opportunity.

In 2018, Rep. Brenda Kupchick,  R-Fairfield, was one of the earliest from the assembly to propose new legislation to support accessible and affordable behavioral healthcare services. Her work led to the creation of SB 384 (dubbed the “Mental Health Parity Act”). The bill passed in the Senate, but despite strong bi-partisan support, the bill died on the last day of the 2018 session before being put up for a vote in the House.

This year marks a fresh start for Connecticut in many ways with a new governor, along with 11 freshman senators and 30 freshman representatives in the general assembly. In taking their oaths as our leaders, these individuals have taken on remarkable responsibility to tackle our state’s challenges.

As an advocate for mental health, I am petitioning our representatives, whether old or new, to support new legislation in 2019 which will take the necessary steps to deliver parity for behavioral healthcare. Parity recognizes mental health conditions and substance as equal to physical illnesses. Without parity, mental health treatment is covered at far lower levels in healthcare insurance policies than physical illness which means people do not get the care they need to experience recovery.

A vote for parity is a vote for the health of our state, a vote for upholding a commitment our government made to our citizens and is a vote for supporting our families, our neighbors, and our future. Now is the time to take action and to deliver on a promise to ensure sound mental health for all.

Tim O’Connor of Fairfield is Secretary and Legislative Chair, NAMI-Fairfield.

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