Robach Announces Senate To Act On "timothy’s Law" To Provide Mental Health Parity

Joseph E. Robach

March 26, 2009

The New York State Senate will act today on "Timothy’s Law," sponsored by Senator Tom Libous (R-C, Binghamton), to provide parity in insurance coverage for mental illnesses. The legislation would require insurance companies to cover most mental illnesses and would require coverage for a broad range of mental illnesses and conditions specifically related to children. The bill reflects an agreement with the State Assembly that was reached at the end of the regular legislative session.

Senate action on the legislation (S.8482) was announced today at a Capitol news conference where Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and Senator Libous were joined by Tom and Donna O’Clair of Rotterdam, whose 12-year-old son Timothy took his own life in 2001 after repeated bouts of depression.

"I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to work together to craft this bill that we’re passing today in remembrance of Timothy, and to help other individuals affected by mental illness," said Senator Libous. "Not only is this legislation providing access to mental health coverage, but it also has built in safeguards to protect small businesses and their employees."

"Mental illness can result in tragedy if it is not properly treated. However, many families do not have access to the proper treatment," said Senator Bruno. "This legislation would provide parity in coverage and help people get the treatment they need. I applaud Senator Libous for the hard work he has done to address such a complex issue, and also Tom and Donna O’Clair, who have courageously advocated on behalf of this legislation since the tragic loss of their son, Timothy, five years ago."


"Today is a landmark day for New Yorkers suffering with mental illness and disorders," said Tom O’Clair. "It’s a wonderful testament to what the Legislature can accomplish when they work together and a heartfelt tribute to Timothy. I thank the Senate and look forward to the Assembly’s return so they can pass it as well."

"As Chairman of the Senate Mental Health Committee, I want to thank Senator Libous for his role in sponsoring this important mental health legislation," said Senator Tom Morahan. "I am pleased that the Senate will act today on ‘Timothy's Law,’ which provides parity in coverage, and represents a vital step in providing services for individuals with mental illnesses. I also want to commend the many mental health advocates and caring New Yorkers who worked so hard to secure agreement to cover biologically based mental illnesses, as well as a broader range of coverage for children."

The legislation includes the following provisions:


The agreement would require insurance companies to cover 30 inpatient days of treatment and 20 outpatient days of treatment for all mental illnesses.

The agreement would also require insurance companies to fully cover biologically based mental illnesses, including the following: Schizophrenia/psychotic disorders, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Delusional Disorders, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia and Binge Eating.


In addition, the agreed upon bill would require insurance coverage for children under age 18 with attention deficit disorder, disruptive behavior disorders or pervasive development disorders where there are serious suicidal symptoms or other life-threatening self-destructive behavior; significant psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusion, bizarre behaviors); behavior caused by emotional disturbances that placed the child at risk of causing personal injury or significant property damage; or behavior caused by emotional disturbances that placed the child at substantial risk of removal from the household.

To address cost concerns raised by small businesses, the agreement directs the state Superintendent of Insurance to develop a methodology that would hold businesses with 50 or fewer employees harmless from any increase in insurance premiums that result from this measure.

The bill would also require the state Insurance Department and the Office of Mental Health to conduct a two year study to determine the effectiveness and impact of mental health parity legislation in New York and other states. When enacted, the bill would take effect January 1, 2007 and sunset on December 31, 2009, to provide for an opportunity to amend the law based on the findings and recommendations of the study.

Paige Pierce, Executive Director of Families Together in New York State, said: "Families of children with special emotional and behavioral disorders know first hand the trauma caused by the lack of services. They have endured crisis trips to the emergency room, have given up their houses to pay for treatment, have witnessed the slow starvation of anorexia and suffered through suicide attempts of their son or daughter. Our families have hope for the future of their children. That’s why families have worked so hard for passage of Timothy’s Law. That’s why they are watching on this historic day as the Senate passes Timothy’s Law. We want to thank the Senate for passing Timothy’s Law today. We are grateful for the Assembly’s support and look forward to the day it is signed into law by the Governor. On that day our families will truly celebrate."

Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc., said: "We commend the members of the New York State Senate and their staff for their work to make this day, on which this historic legislation is passed, a reality. Timothy’s Law supporters throughout New York State are now counting on the New York State Assembly to return to Albany to pass this legislation and for Governor Pataki to sign this bill into law when it arrives at his desk for his consideration. Only then will New York join the majority of other states working to eliminate unnecessary barriers to mental health treatment, allowing people to live full and productive lives, and beginning to curb the annual loss of billions of dollars caused by untreated mental illness that plague businesses of all sizes and our economy as a whole."

Richard Gallo, Government Relations Advocate for the New York State Psychiatric Association, said: "We applaud the sponsors and proponents of this bill for enabling this landmark step toward ending the disparity in New York State between health insurance coverage for physical illnesses and that of mental illnesses. Perhaps the single most important ‘benefit’ of Timothy’s Law is not found in the bill’s text but rather in the compassion and understanding that propels it – for this bill is as much about eliminating the stigma of mental illness as it is about removing other barriers to treatment."

J. David Seay, Esq., Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York State (NAMI-NYS), said: "Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Senator Tom Libous are to be commended for getting Timothy’s Law through the New York State Senate. Their dedication and hard work will benefit countless New Yorkers and their families who daily struggle to live and cope with serious mental illness," Seay continued. "Their skillful mix of compassion and compromise will help to avoid untreated and under-treated mental illness in the future and the heartbreaking suicides of New Yorkers like Timothy O’Clair," he added.

Shelly Nortz, Deputy Executive Director for Policy with Coalition for the Homeless, said: "The value of this legislation will be measured not only in improved mental health and productivity for millions of New Yorkers, but also in lives saved and enriched. We commend and thank everyone who has helped to bring Timothy's Law this far, and we look forward to enjoying similar support in the Assembly and from Governor Pataki later this year when the bill reaches their desks."


Jeff Wise, President / CEO of New York State Rehabilitation Association, said: "We highly commend the Senate for moving to correct a patently unfair – and ultimately costly – form of discrimination regarding adults and children with very real health issues. With the concurrence of the Assembly and the Governor, New York’s law will be one that matters. It is a credit to all involved – legislators and their staff, advocates, and the huge contingent of New York’s citizens who have expressed support for this step. All have been admirably and touchingly led by Tom O’Clair and family, whose tireless and selfless efforts to make things better are nothing short of inspirational."

Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, said: "With passage by the legislature and the approval of Governor Pataki, New York State government will have taken long overdue action to stop the needless suffering of thousands of New Yorkers and allow appropriate access to mental health treatment that will prevent lost hope and productivity and, most tragically, lost lives of those in need."

Richard El Barnes, Executive Director of the New York State Catholic Conference, said: "For too long, mental illness was considered to be somehow not as serious a problem as physical illness. With this legislative agreement, New York State has put that falsehood to rest. Timothy's Law will ensure that those who suffer the devastating effects of mental illness will not be denied the services they need. The Catholic Bishops of New York State are most grateful to the legislative leaders, Senator Bruno and Speaker Silver, as well as sponsors Senator Thomas Libous and Assembly Member Paul Tonko for coming to a resolution in this long-standing struggle."

Reinaldo Cardona of the National Association of Social Workers, New York State Chapter said: "We commend the Senate for taking this important step toward ending the discriminatory coverage of treatment for mental illnesses. NASW-NYS applauds Tom O'Clair for his courageous leadership and perseverance in fighting for parity on behalf of his son Timothy to provide relief for so many New York families. We look forward to the Assembly returning in the near future to take swift action to pass Timothy's Law, so that this fair and affordable solution that will save lives and families may be signed into law by Governor Pataki as soon as possible."

Mary Jean Coleman, Upstate New York Area Director for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, said: "The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention applauds the NYS Senate and all who have worked to further ‘mental health parity’ in New York State. We look forward to the Assembly’s return for passage in their house and to Governor Pataki signing this crucial legislation when it is delivered to his desk."