The Arizona Legislature came together to pass a bill that expands access to mental health care statewide.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed a long-awaited bill Wednesday to boost mental healthcare coverage in Arizona after it unanimously passed in both the House and Senate.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, requires health insurers to cover mental health care in the same way they would an annual physical, without additional barriers.
Senate Bill 1523, known as Jake’s Law, honors the memory of Jake Machovsky, an Arizona teenager who died by suicide in 2016.
Jake’s parents, Ben and Denise Denslow, have long been fighting to change the system through their nonprofit named after their son, the JEM Foundation. Mrs. Denslow said when Jake was struggling with depression and had attempted suicide twice, their insurance only allowed him to stay in the hospital for five days. She believes he needed much more time.
Another parent, Angela Gamboa, lost her son to suicide in 2018. His name was also Jake. Gamboa said the law will help people like him who were suffering.
“With Jake’s Law, Arizona is taking action to improve access to mental health services and save lives,” Ducey said in a press release. “This historic reform is the product of months of work to bring all stakeholders and advocates together. It will help countless families in times of crisis, especially those most in need.”
The bill puts $8 million toward helping children who are underinsured or have no insurance receive access to behavioral health services. It also establishes a Mental Health Parity Advisory Committee and a Suicide Mortality Review Team, which are tasked with reviewing mental health trends and recommending solutions on preventing suicide.
According to the governor’s office, about four people die each day from suicide.