Christine Stuart photo

(updated 7:22 p.m.) Mental health advocates and a handful of lawmakers want Gov. M. Jodi Rell to include mental health parity in her Charter Oak Health Plan, which she is advertising as “affordable coverage for uninsured adults of all incomes.”

Bids on the Charter Oak Health Plan are expected to be announced later this week or early next week.

Senator Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, said this morning that there’s always time to have the HMO’s amend their bids to include coverage of mental illness, which in his opinion is “non-negotiable.”

Harris went on to explain that the concerns about cost should not be an issue. While there is no cost estimate yet for legislation that asks for mental health parity to be included in the governor’s plan, he said, the cost depending on how many people participate is generally negligible.

Dr. Virginia Shiller of the Connecticut Psychological Association said if mental health parity is not included she fears taxpayers will have to pay for it in other ways—children with behavior problems will need special school services, adults may miss work, have failed marriages, or be unable to parent their children sending them into foster care.

“Mental illness does not go away because it isn’t treated,” Shiller said.

Susan Oriola of Danielson said saying people with mental illness do not deserve the same treatment as those with medical problems, is “like the doctor telling the patient that his/her liver can be fixed, but not his/her brain.”

Oriola said she’s seen first hand what happens to those without good health insurance. She said when she was in treatment she saw people leave the hospital after a half-day session, and come back the next day stating “they picked up a drink or a drug to get them through the rest of the previous day.” She said she was lucky her insurance covered a full day of treatment.

Since 1999, the state of Connecticut has required all commercial insurance providers to include mental health parity in their health insurance plans.