Mental Health Advocates Push for State Legislation

Buffalo, NY – Mental health workers and people with a mental illness traveled to Albany Tuesday to lobby state legislators on issues important to them.

About 50 local people left on a bus around 5:00 in the morning, heading for Albany to meet with their state representatives. Advocates say the state has failed to act on a number of issues important to those suffering from mental illness and the people who treat them.

"I've had a mental illness, and I was forced to go bankrupt because of my medical bills," said Marcie Kelley, director of the Mental Health PEER Connection in Buffalo. "Others face similar problems everyday. 'Should I get mental health treatment or should I use the money for food or rent?'"

Kelley says they'll be asking legislators to pass a parity bill that would require health insurance companies to offer same kind of coverage for people with mental illnesses as they do for customers with physical illnesses.

Kelley also says says they're seeking an increase in pay for mental health workers. She says many are forced to work multiple jobs.

"That doesn't make them the best workers," she said. "They're tired and overworked, but that's what they have to do to make ends meet."