Authors Posts by Sarah Eyster

Sarah Eyster

Ms. Eyster represents the association at state-level meetings and serves as staff liaison to the Mental Health Committee. She is responsible for member communication of, and the analysis of, Department of Human Services and other key policy decisions.

Mar 12, 2021
News Release

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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, along with the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force Co-Chairs, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Ann Kuster (NH-02), and Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) introduced the Parity Enforcement Act, H.R. 1364, which expands the U.S. Department of Labor’s authority to hold health insurers and plan sponsors accountable for offering health plans that violate the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

“As America continues to battle a public health crisis and economic crisis, the opioid epidemic has been fueled by the pandemic and continues to claim more lives each year than all of the Vietnam War and, unfortunately, suicide is also on the rise in nearly every state in our nation,” said Congressman Norcross. “While mental health parity is rightfully the law of the land, our enforcement mechanisms are severely lacking. Insurance companies can get away with not following parity laws, even though lives are on the line. We can and must do more.”

“America is working to overcome two epidemics right now—the COVID-19 pandemic, and the nationwide opioid epidemic that has unfortunately grown worse over the past year,” said Congressman Courtney. “It’s more important than ever right now to make sure all Americans have access to effective mental health and addiction treatment—it’s one of the best ways we can stem the increase in addiction and overdose, and our bipartisan legislation will provide new authority to ensure employer sponsored insurance plans are following parity rules. I’m proud to join Congressman Norcross in introducing the bipartisan Parity Enforcement Act.”

“As our nation grapples with dual crises – the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 – those seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder and addiction deserve to have faith that they are receiving the best treatment without being taken advantage of,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We cannot allow insurance companies to continue to get away with violating parity laws. We can and we must do more to save lives, and this legislation is a crucial step in the right direction.”

“The mental health and opioid epidemic sweeping across our nation has only been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that all Americans have the access they need to seek out effective mental health and addiction treatment,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “It is unacceptable when some bad actor insurance companies are able to get away with not following parity laws, whether it be through denying treatment or making access to treatment difficult. Our bipartisan Parity Enforcement Act will empower the US Department of Labor to discourage these unlawful actions and ensure that employer-sponsored insurance plans are compliant with parity rules.”

Click here to view or download the full text of the bill.

Click here to view or download a fact sheet.

This legislation has a broad range of bipartisan and nonpartisan support. The Parity Enforcement Act is also supported by a variety of advocacy leaders, including the Kennedy Forum, the American Psychological Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Insurer discrimination against those with mental health and substance use disorders will continue until the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has the power to enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008,” said former U.S. Representative and founder of The Kennedy Forum and DontDenyMe.org, Patrick J. Kennedy. “Without the ability to levy fines against insurers who violate the law, the DOL is essentially operating with one arm tied behind its back. I applaud Congressman Norcross for introducing this critical legislation, which makes it clear that to achieve parity we must hold insurers accountable.”

“One in five Americans experiences a mental health disorder each year, yet an overwhelming majority of Americans remain unaware that health insurers are required to provide coverage for mental health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders that is comparable to coverage for physical health,” said American Psychological Association CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. “It is critically important that insurers and plans fully comply with the federal mental health and addiction parity law so that more people who need treatment can access it.”

“Correcting discriminatory insurer practices is critical to removing the stigma surrounding addiction and increasing access to evidence-based treatment for substance use disorder. The American Society of Addiction Medicine fully supports the Parity Enforcement Act of 2021, which would provide much-needed enforcement of existing federal parity law and help more Americans access comprehensive addiction treatment services,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

“Mental health parity is the law of the land, yet during these challenging times we are still seeing inconsistent application of the law,” said American Foundation for Suicide Prevention CEO Robert Gebbia. “The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention applauds Congressman Norcross and endorses the Parity Enforcement Act as crucial legislation to put an end to discriminatory mental health coverage.”


Contact: Carrie Healey, Communications Director

Image by Wilfried Pohnke from Pixabay

From CMS Office of Minority Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted minority and vulnerable populations. The COVID-19 vaccine can reduce the spread of the virus and help end the public health emergency. Community partners working with racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, people with limited English proficiency, sexual and gender minorities, and rural populations are critical in helping consumers understand how and when they can receive the vaccine, vaccine safety and confidence, and the important ongoing precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

To assist our partners, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) has developed a COVID-19 Vaccine Resources website of the many Federal resources and organized them for health care professionals, partners, consumers, and for assistance in additional languages.

We encourage you to visit the website regularly, as we will continue to update the page with new resources. You can also share this page within your networks to prepare others to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available to them.

For additional COVID-19 information, visit our general COVID-19 website for Federal resources focusing on vulnerable populations and From Coverage to Care COVID-19 webpage.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed another renewal of the state’s disaster declaration tied to the coronavirus pandemic, even as state lawmakers hope to curtail some of his broad powers in emergencies. On Friday, Wolf signed a 90-day extension of the disaster emergency, his fourth renewal of the proclamation. He signed the first order on March 6, the day the first COVID-19 cases were reported in Pennsylvania. View full article from PennLive.

The 2021 RCPA Conference, Leading in 2021: Hope, Help, Heal, will tentatively be held as a hybrid event (September 28 – October 1). As the COVID-19 pandemic permits, it will take place both at the Hershey Lodge as well as virtually. Since this is a premier statewide event, the Conference Committee is seeking workshop proposals for possible inclusion. The conference offers diverse educational opportunities, and submissions are needed in every area. A complete listing of focus tracks is available on the proposal form. Last year, many submissions were unable to be utilized due to the pandemic and the shift from an in-person to virtual format.

Presentations that assist providers in developing and maintaining quality, effective treatments, services, and agencies in an industry where change is constant are encouraged. The committee looks for presentations which:

  • Highlight new policy, research, and treatment initiatives;
  • Provide specific skills and information related to individual and organizational leadership development and enhancement;
  • Address system changes that affect business practices such as value-based purchasing; and
  • Offer concrete skills and tools to operate more efficient, effective agencies in a pandemic and post-pandemic arena.

Workshop ideas for 2021 include:

  • Strategies for Effective Teleintervention;
  • Assessing Abuse and Neglect in a Virtual Encounter;
  • The Impact of the Pandemic on Child Welfare/Abuse/Neglect;
  • Coping with Grief and Loss;
  • Preventing/Mitigating Provider Burnout;
  • Family and Caregiver Engagement;
  • Strategies to Combat the Impact of Screen-Time Fatigue (Telework, Virtual School, Virtual Socialization);
  • DEI Topics – Assessing Implicit Bias, Overcoming Implicit Bias, How to Develop a DEI Plan;
  • The PH-BH Interface – Finding Common Ground to Treat the Whole Person;
  • Ongoing Workforce Shortage Solutions;
  • The Changing Health-Care Landscape During and Post Pandemic;
  • Managing Human Capital/Resources Virtually;
  • Integrated Care Strategies for Implementation and Reimbursement;
  • Managed Care Models for People with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities;
  • Remote Services/Use of Technology in all Types of Support Services for Individuals with IDD;
  • Ethics Topics Across the Membership;
  • Emergency Planning for Community Violence;
  • Acquisitions/Mergers and Consolidations;
  • Value-Based Purchasing; and
  • Employing People with Disabilities.

The committee welcomes any proposal that addresses these and other topics essential to the rehabilitation, mental health, addiction, children’s, aging, intellectual and developmental disability, and physical disability communities. Members are encouraged to consider submitting proposals and to forward this opportunity to those who are exceptionally good speakers and who have state-of-the-art information to share.

The Call for Proposals and accompanying “Guidelines for Developing Educational Objectives” outline requirements for submissions. The deadline for submissions is Monday, February 22 at 5:00 pm. Proposals must be submitted electronically to Sarah Eyster on the form provided. Confirmation of receipt will be sent. Proposals submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

Proposals selected stand out by inclusion of solid learning objectives, information that a participant can use to enhance professional skills or methods, and ability to engage a diverse and advanced audience. If the proposal is accepted, individuals must be prepared to present on any day of the conference. Workshops are 60–75 minutes in length for a single session or 120–150 minutes in length for a double session. At the time of acceptance, presenters will be required to confirm the ability to submit workshop handouts electronically four weeks prior to the conference.

Individuals are welcome to submit multiple proposals. Notification of inclusion will be made via email by May 10. Questions may be directed to Sarah Eyster, Conference Coordinator.