Arizona law requires insurers to cover mental health treatment

A new law that would require health care insurers to cover mental health treatment in the same way they would a patient’s annual physical was signed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday.

The law, S. B. 1523, otherwise known as Jake’s Law, had bipartisan support and is aimed at eliminating barriers to mental health treatment. The law also provides $8 million for behavioral health services for children who are uninsured or underinsured and prohibits insurance companies from refusing to cover mental health treatment for children simply because they take place in a school or other educational setting.

“With Jake’s Law, Arizona is taking action to improve access to mental health services and save lives,” said Governor Ducey. “This historic reform is the product of months of work to bring all stakeholders and advocates together. It will help countless families in times of crisis, especially those most in need.”

The law, sponsored by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee and Rep. Jeff Weninger, is named after Arizona teen Jake Machovsky who took his own life after struggling with mental health issues. Jake’s parents, Denise and Ben, formed the JEM Foundation in response, to help end youth suicide and address behavioral health services.

“Too many families have had to endure the tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide,” said Sen. McGee. “Jake’s Law will help make sure no family is turned away from accessing the critical mental health services that can save a life.”

The law will also create a Mental Health Parity Advisory Committee that will allow mental health stakeholders – from family and advocates to mental health service providers – to have a say in state mental health policy. The law also establishes a Suicide Mortality Review Team what will provide policymakers with data and recommendations based on reviews of suicide deaths. Lastly, the law will work to ensure those who visit a hospital and are at risk of suicide receive follow-up services.

“This legislation is a big step toward preventing suicide and saving lives throughout the state,” said Representative Jeff Weninger. “I am thankful to the advocates across Arizona who have stepped up to increase access to mental health resources and to Governor Ducey and my fellow legislators, who passed this law with unanimous support.”

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