Congratulations, Senator Snowe!

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) received the Jacob K. Javits Award for Public Service from the American Psychiatric Association this week. The award is the APA’s highest award in advocacy.

Snowe has worked throughout her career to end the unfair distinction between physical and mental disorders. One of her most significant accomplishments in mental health was joining forces with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to champion Medicare co-payment parity. Their hard work was realized in a provision of the 2008 passed Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act. Its passage eliminated the unjust co-pay imbalance for mental health outpatient services, which were 50 percent compared to 20 percent for other medical services.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award from the American Psychiatric Association, whose leadership and advocacy on behalf of mental illness has improved the lives of millions of Americans nationwide,” said Sen. Snowe. “As we strive to improve access to quality, affordable health care in our nation, it is incumbent upon Congress to ensure parity when it comes to these services upon which so many rely.”

She has been furthering her service in mental health by working more with Kerry to eliminate the Medicare 190-day lifetime limit for recipients receiving care in a psychiatric hospital. She was also one of the few Republicans to vote to extend the expiring stimulus Medicaid provisions, which increased the federal percentage of Medicaid contributions. This funding extension was critical to preventing state mental health budget cuts.

Established in 1986, the Jacob K. Javits Public Service Award honors the legacy of Sen. Jacob K. Javits from New York, who served for 24 years and used his position on the then-Labor and Public Welfare Committee to spearhead health legislation, achieving multiple successes on behalf of people with mental illness and on substance abuse issues. The Javits Award is given annually, alternately to a state public servant and a federal public servant.

Notable past recipients of this federal award include U.S. Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

(excerpted from Sen. Snowe’s press release)

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