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Program to Help Access Insurance for Abuse, Mental Health
New York Ag Connection - 10/11/2018

Three New York State agencies -- the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the Office of Mental Health and the Department of Financial Services -- announced a new program to help ensure all New Yorkers are able to access their insurance coverage for substance use disorders and mental health services.

The new Ombudsman Program, called Community Health Access to Addiction and Mental Healthcare Project (CHAMP) will educate individuals, families, and health care providers on their legal rights to coverage, help them to access treatment and services and will investigate and resolve complaints regarding denial of health insurance coverage.

Stephanie Campbell, former Executive Director of Friends of Recovery -- New York, a statewide network for people in recovery, will serve as NYS Ombudsman Project Director and oversee implementation of the program for OASAS and OMH. A general mailbox (Ombuds@oasas.ny.gov) and a hotline number (888-614-5400) have been established for questions about the program.

Governor Cuomo also issued a proclamation designating October 2018 as MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION PARITY MONTH in New York. The proclamation calls on insurers "...to take immediate steps to demonstrate to regulators that all their practices are in compliance with state and federal parity laws so that New Yorkers can access the mental health and substance use disorder services and medications they need to lead healthy and productive lives."

New York has been a leader in advancing parity with early passage of Timothy's Law, protections for the integration of behavioral health services into Medicaid managed care and reforms to address the opioid epidemic. However, national studies continue to reveal significant challenges with accessing behavioral health services and individuals and families with comprehensive health insurance coverage experience higher out-of-network use, lower reimbursement and restrictions on coverage for needed behavioral health services including mental health counseling and treatment for addiction.

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