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Tough times

Over the next period of time, I will be taking sections from my end of session report and going over some highlights of this legislative biennium. One area of work that I believe was important was in mental health and our treatment of it. The Vermont State Legislature worked hard this year to live up to our commitments to Vermont adults and children who receive mental health support in our communities. While most areas of state government saw reduced or level funding, we were able to give both inflationary and caseload increases for these important services. These are tough economic times for most Vermont families. When stress is high, people who are burdened with mental health challenges themselves, or in their children, have an increased need for support in order to maintain stability. The legislature rejected one significant cut proposed by the Douglas administration that would have left without support many families who have developmentally delayed young adult children. While there are always valid arguments for more funding, this restoration of funds, along with the inflationary and caseload increases provided to community mental health agencies, the state hospital, and our community schools, amounts to a successful year in maintaining our commitments. The vast majority of Vermonters who seek mental health support for themselves and their children depend on private mental health counselors, doctors, and psychiatrists. These Vermonters, along with their private providers, have expressed frustration for some time about unfair health insurance practices that directly interfere with necessary care. This year the legislature sent a strong message to the insurance carriers and their contractors that they must follow our mental health parity laws. We directed the Health Care administration to apply our regulatory standards to the managed behavioral health companies with whom our insurance companies contract. I hope you are enjoying summertime and all that Vermont offers. Please feel free to reach me with questions, concerns, or just good conversation. I can be reached at 802-985-8515 or via e-mail at jglenes@aol.com. Joan Lenes is the Representative for Chittenden County, District 5-2 in Vermont. Her column appears regularly in the Times Sentinel

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