Support step therapy reform

To the Editor:

Medication is very often the most crucial element of treatment for mental illness.

Mental health medications, and particularly antipsychotics, do not produce the same effect in everyone. Age, gender, race, body size, body chemistry, other physical illnesses and their treatments can influence a medication’s effectiveness. Access to the most effective treatment allows people with mental illness to live more independent lives.

Barriers to accessing the most appropriate medications for mental illness can result in emergency department visits, hospitalizations, homelessness, incarceration, and even death by suicide.

A practice called ‘step therapy’ can be a barrier. It happens when health plans deny a prescribed medication, requiring instead that a patient take a drug in the same class, but at less cost to the insurer. Only when a patient ‘fails’ on the drug or drugs required by the insurer, can they then get the medicine their doctor wanted them to have in the first place. Refer back to paragraph three to learn what ‘fail’ can mean to a person with mental illness.

NAMI Ohio has long opposed step therapy for mental health medications because we believe a doctor and patient, together, are in the best position to determine the most appropriate medication regimen.

Ohio House Bill 72 and Ohio Senate Bill 56 seek to reform step therapy practices in Ohio. Mental health advocates believe the reforms will protect patients. We urge Ohio’s state lawmakers to support this legislation and join with 12 other states who have passed step therapy reform laws.

— Terry Russell, Executive Director

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio