Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, which the House will vote on tonight.
Below are her remarks:
'This is a very special day in the Congress of the United States. We are all very proud of our work, but there are some days that really stand out as historic, days that represent breakthroughs for America's families.
'Today we are debating an issue that it relevant to the lives of so many people in our country and we owe a great debt of gratitude to two of our colleagues, Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and Congressman Jim Ramstad of Minnesota.
'Through their great knowledge of the issue of mental illness and addiction, through their political astuteness of the political process here, their generosity of spirit to share their personal experience with us will benefit so many people in our country. Simply said, without their leadership, we would not have this opportunity today. So I am pleased to salute the leadership of Congressman Kennedy and Ramstad. With this legislation, they have given hope to millions of Americans.
'I rise in support of the legislation because illness of the brain must be treated like illness anywhere else in the body. The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act is a comprehensive bill to help end discrimination against those who seek treatment for mental illness.
'There is no shame in mental illness. The great shame would be if Congress did not take action to ensure that individuals with mental health illnesses and addictions are given the attention, treatment, and resources that they need to live a healthy life.
'This is an issue of national significance. Every year, mental illness results in 1.3 billion lost days of work or school. That adds up to more lost productivity for mental illness than arthritis, stroke, heart attack and cancer combined. Yet bipartisan and independent research shows that there is no significant cost to insuring mental illness like any other medical disease.
'This legislation will be especially relevant for our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who later become employed in the private sector. This will be potentially lifesaving for those brave men and women who served in the National Guard and Reserves, but who don't receive VA care for their entire lives.
'To help remove the stigma against mental illness, for the millions suffering from mental illness and addiction, and because it is the right thing for our nation, I urge my colleagues to support the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act. It is legislation that is long overdue.'