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Soc Ment Health. 2012 Nov 1;2(3). doi: 10.1177/2156869312455436.

Institutions, Politics, and Mental Health Parity.

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University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA.
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.


Mental health parity laws require insurers to extend comparable benefits for mental and physical health care. Proponents argue that by placing mental health services alongside physical health services, such laws can help ensure needed treatment and destigmatize mental illness. Opponents counter that such mandates are costly or unnecessary. The authors offer a sociological account of the diffusion and spatial distribution of state mental health parity laws. An event history analysis identifies four factors as especially important: diffusion of law, political ideology, the stability of mental health advocacy organizations and the relative health of state economies. Mental health parity is least likely to be established during times of high state unemployment and under the leadership of conservative state legislatures.


mental health; mental health policy; mental health services

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