Woman pushes for Kansas bill requiring mental health insurance coverage

(KWCH) A Kansas woman wants lawmakers to take up a bill in January requiring both physical and mental health coverage by insurance providers.

Jennifer Cook says her younger sister, Kristi Bennett, died eight months ago from an overdose. She said the 28-year-old was denied treatment by multiple institutions because she didn't have an emergency case first before she could be admitted.

Cook says she hopes that with the "Kristi L. Bennett Mental Health Parity Act," both mental and physical health can be covered by insurance providers. She says the bill would give medical providers the authority to make decisions for people needing immediate treatment.

"If that happened to your child or your sister or your brother, how much would you pay to get them life-saving treatment? I just hope they look at it as how much is your life worth?" Bennett said.

Right now, the Centers for Disease Control says suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Kansas.

Dr. Rachel Brown with the KU School of Medicine-Wichita says this bill not only can save lives but also save the state millions of dollars in health care costs.

"We, as professionals and the organizations that we work with, spend a lot of our time trying to work with insurance companies to get our services reimbursed and those kinds of authorizations take time, they take effort, they take people," said Brown.

She said more resources available could ensure people suffering from mental illness have a better quality of life if they receive the necessary treatment.

Cook says she wished her sister had those resources.

The next legislative session starts next month. Those behind the bill expect that it could come up in February.