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Hillary Clinton Responds to Mom's Concern Over Son's Mental Illness Treatment

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In a town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, last Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton discussed mental health stigma and treatment. Her comments were a response to a mother’s question about a challenge familiar to many in the mental health community — fighting insurance companies for adequate mental health care.

“I am the mother of a 16-year-old boy who is smart and beautiful, but he also really struggles with mental illness,” the mother said. “He’s currently in an inpatient program.”

Despite having what she calls “great health insurance,” the mother told Clinton how she has to fight her insurance company over every hospital admission and every bit of treatment, despite being doctor-recommended.

“The heath insurance company constantly tried to whittle it down and only provide the minimum amount,” she said.  “As a parent with a sick child I only have so much energy to fight this fight, and something just really needs to be done.”

Clinton responded with a few questions.

“How many of you know someone with mental health problems?” she asked her audience. “How many of you know how difficult it is to get the medical care you need to help someone with mental health problems?”

Although the U.S. government has passed parity laws — which state insurance providers must treat physical health and mental health equally — some families have found them poorly enforced. According to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness last April, patients seeking mental health services from private insurers were denied coverage at twice the rate as those seeking medical services, on the basis that the mental health treatment wasn’t “medically necessary.”

Clinton said reducing mental health stigma goes hand-in-hand with enforcing parity laws.

“I’m going to work with the mental health community which has laid out an agenda about how we get this right once and for all, because it’s not fair,” she said. “It’s not fair to the person suffering, and it’s certainly not fair to the families who are trying to cope with that suffering and get the medical care that’s needed.”

You can watch the entire town hall below. Clinton starts talking mental health at 20:10.

Originally published: January 4, 2016
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