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Senate Unanimously Approves Vast Mental Health Bill

The Senate unanimously approved wide-reaching legislation Thursday designed to remove common barriers blocking access to mental health treatment, an action that supporters say is a key step toward fulfilling the promise of parity in health care already enshrined in law.

Under the bill, referred to by authors as the "Mental Health ABC Act," state offices would have new enforcement powers, insurers would need to file regular compliance reports, and more in an attempt to guarantee that patients have the same access to mental health care as they do to physical health care.

Despite a 20-year-old state law requiring equal access, lawmakers and supporters said, Massachusetts residents often wait weeks or months to access therapists or social workers, children are boarded in emergency rooms for days on end waiting for psychiatric beds, and both stigma and insurance barriers turn away many needing care.

"While comprehensive, the Mental Health ABC act is a first step at fixing a profoundly broken system," said Sen. Julian Cyr, the bill's lead other.

This story will be updated.

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