I made mental health a priority during my days in the New York State Assembly when I first met Timothy O’ Clair at a little league game in 2001. Timothy was a bright and energetic youngster with the whole world ahead of him. Unfortunately, Timothy also suffered from a debilitating mental illness. When Timothy’s insurance would no longer cover his treatment, his parents were forced to disown him in order to get treatment. Unable to receive the appropriate care, at the age of 12, Timothy tragically completed suicide. Timothy’s struggle to get the care he needed is what first led me down the path of working to improve the mental health system in America.
Successfully passing mental health parity in the New York State Assembly – Timothy’s Law – gave me the drive to improve the way we approach mental health care in America nationwide. To me, that means reducing the stigma for those seeking care, addressing the growing problem of substance abuse, and giving our health care professionals the resources they need to adequately recognize and address the challenges those who live with mental illness must grapple with every day.