The ever-so-long-anticipated announcement of the release of a final implementation rule for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 might well have taken place in Washington, DC or perhaps, Boston, where the JFK Presidential Library - and grandson Patrick Kennedy - played host to last month's 50th Anniversary of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963.
But there was a special poignancy and meaning in the fact that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made this landmark announcement at the Carter Center in Atlanta on the second day of the 29th Annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health. As First Lady, Rosalynn Carter chaired the President's Commission on Mental Health, which identified the major gaps in community mental health care that had formed following implementation of the CMHA in the '60s and '70s.
The Commission's work led directly to development and passage of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980, which President Jimmy Carter signed on October 7, 1980. While the MHSA promised to renew the bright promise of the nation's still growing community mental health system and introduce a new level of service and integration to those with behavioral health problems, it was never implemented - President Carter was defeated for re-election only one month later.
So, there was special joy - and a prolonged and noisy ovation - at the Carter Center last Friday with the Secretary's announcement that, at last, final parity regulations would be in place to accompany the rollout of the next phase of the Affordable Care Act. The applause continued as Secretary Sibelius invited Mrs. Carter and David Wellstone, son of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and a primary sponsor of the parity bill, to the stage. See the moment by clicking on the attached gallery photo.