Mental health advocates press for coverage in BP relief fund

The nation's largest mental health organization is pressing claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg to cover mental health needs through the $20 billion BP relief fund.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is taking issue with Feinberg's July 21 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee during which he said the fund is not likely to pay damages for mental illness and distress caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill unless a "physical injury" is also present.

That statement is "incompatible with modern scientific knowledge of mental illness and the impact of traumatic events," NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Feinberg. "Denial of a class of individuals with medical disorders affecting the brain from compensation that is available to those with medical disorders affecting other organs of the body would be neither fair nor equitable."

Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana have all called on BP to fund mental health care. And Louisiana advised the Department of Health and Human Services last month that it was encountering "increases in anxiety, depression, stress, grief, excessive and earlier drinking and suicide ideation."