Testimony in support of LD 364

A copy of the testimony I presented to the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Insurance and Financial Services on March 2, 2011

Re: LD 364, Resolve, Directing Updated Review and Evaluation of Maine’s Mental Health Parity Law

 Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the importance and my support of LD 364.

My name is Randy Seaver, and I am here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if that statement seems vague, please allow me to explain. From my perspective, it is nothing short of a miracle that I am able to stand before you today and testify about the critical importance of maintaining Maine’s mental health parity legislation.

What do you see when you look at me? Perhaps you see a father, a husband or a communications consultant? Maybe you know me from some of the other state policy work I have been involved with over the last several years. Perhaps you know me as a veteran; or as a former journalist and newspaper editor.

In fact, I am all of those things. But what you may not know is that I am also someone with a mental illness who requires daily medication and ongoing treatment. I am not unique. I am not an anomaly. In fact, I am just like the thousands of other Maine people who suffer from some sort of mental illness.

If you think my numbers are high, please consider that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 of every five Americans suffers from some form of mental illness. Based on the latest Census figures regarding Maine’s population, the math will tell you that there are more than 200,000 people just like me in Maine.

We are your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers and colleagues.

Mental illness is no different in its implications than any other form of disease, such as Diabetes or epilepsy. Would you think of me any differently if I stood before you to talk about insurance coverage for diabetics?

My illness, as long as it is treated properly, is virtually impossible to detect. When addressed through medication and regular clinician visits, my illness does not prevent me from doing things that so many us take for granted: holding a job, maintaining a marriage, volunteering in the community and yes, even paying taxes that support our communities.

But there is another side of that coin because I know all too well the costs associated without access to treatment and medications. Between 1982 and 1998, I was in and out of various hospital settings and unable to hold a job or maintain a relationship.

In fact, if you were to eat just one whoopee pie for every time I was hospitalized during that 16-year time frame, you would die of hypoglycaemic shock before you were halfway there.

When Jared Loughner committed his horrific acts of violence in Tucson, I knew that I had a responsibility to speak up publicly about both the stigma associated with mental illness and the need to ensure that people have fair access to treatments and medications.

You see, Jared Loughner and I are not that much different. The only real difference is that I was able to receive treatment and medication, and that I take responsibility for managing my illness.

Those two things are important, and they are the only reasons why I am here today, and not in prison, a hospital ward or a morgue.

But without access to treatment, how am I able to take responsibility for managing my illness? If I pay the same insurance premium as my neighbor, why should an insurance company view my illness any differently?

Access to medication and ongoing treatment allows me to be a productive member of my community. Without that access, it is likely that I will end up in a hospital. If I’m not working, I’m unable to support myself. I am not paying income taxes or contributing to the economy as a consumer of goods and services. Wouldn’t you agree that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Randy Seaver, and I am here!

I am here to plead with you to maintain and support Maine’s mental health parity law.