Laurel Burns doesn’t have any broken bones, deep lacerations, or a raging viral infection. None of the physical ailments that would make her the kind of patient anxious to see Congress pass “Obamacare”.
Laurel is the first to admit she is mentally ill.
And for years, the 33-year-old Brooklyn resident says she never really found stability in her life as she struggled to either afford or find access to the psychiatric care she so desperately needed.
Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, includes equal protection for the mentally ill, making them eligible to receive the same coverage as patients suffering from physical ailments.
Even while Laurel managed to hold down low wage jobs over the years, she fell through a mental health coverage gap that millions of other Americans fall through every year.
Laurel was lucky enough to find a safe haven at Fountain House, which operates as the world’s largest psycho-social organization catering to the social and educational needs of the mentally ill.
Before that she was reeling and homeless.
“I needed help. I had no insurance. I had no therapist, no psychiatrist, no medication, and um, and I had ended up hospitalized,” said Laurel.
Still, there are skeptics who question Obamacare’s ability to level the playing field among mentally ill and physical ailing. They argue insurance companies will inevitably find new ways to make it difficult or impossible to access more thorough mental health coverage options.
But Fountain House program coordinator Elliot Madison says the entire mental health community is hopeful new legislation can address insurance coverage gap.
“It is a direct pathway to homelessness if you can’t afford your medication. That is clear. Insurance companies routinely limit the number of therapeutic visits you can have. Or some will not even pay for therapeutic visits. This is unacceptable in our society, just as it’s unacceptable for someone with diabetes not to be able to have their insulin,” said Madison.
For Laurel Burns, and hundreds of other mentally ill homeless who walk through these doors, Fountain House continues to serve as an essential patch in our area’s mental health safety net.
“They really saved my life and I love them very much for helping me,” said Laurel.