Feature

Psychologists nationwide are honoring the memory of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), best-known as an avid supporter of mental health parity, his wife and fellow advocate, Sheila, and Mary McEvoy, PhD, a University of Minnesota early childhood education professor who was on sabbatical campaigning for Wellstone's re-election.

The three were among the eight killed when their plane crashed in Eveleth, Minn., on Oct. 25, along with Wellstone's daughter, Marcia, two other Wellstone staffers and the plane's two pilots.

APA enjoyed a close working relationship with Wellstone, who co-sponsored the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). The law prevented larger health plans from placing lifetime and annual dollar limits on mental health benefits that are different from those placed on medical benefits. Since its passage, Wellstone worked to achieve full parity in all aspects of insurance coverage for mental health services. During the most recent session of Congress, he and Domenici were lead co-sponsors of the Mental Health equitable Treatment Act, which would close loopholes in the 1996 law.

"Senator Wellstone proved to APA time and again that he cared deeply about helping patients get access to quality psychological services," says Marilyn Richmond, assistant executive director of government relations in APA's Practice Organization. "In the debates over mental health parity, managed care and public mental health systems, his energy and active influence will be sorely missed."

In recognition of his work on parity, APA awarded Wellstone its 1997 Outstanding Leadership Award. But parity was only one of the psychology-friendly initiatives he championed. Others include:

  • Sponsoring the Patient Protection Act, one of the first bills proposed to regulate managed care.

  • Advocating with his wife on behalf of women and their families in welfare reform and domestic violence legislation.

  • Backing legislation to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of crisis centers and suicide hotlines.

  • Spearheading efforts to include a mental health package in the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 for graduate students seeking internships and research assistantships for psychology and other mental and behavioral-health professions.

  • Promoting fairness and accuracy in high-stakes educational testing.

Mary McEvoy, 49, shared the Wellstones' commitment to mental health issues and public outreach, particularly in the area of early childhood education and domestic violence. Before her death, she had been working on projects to increase literacy and measure young children's development. In addition to her work in academe, she served as associate chair of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, recruiting candidates and activists and working closely with Sheila Wellstone in Senator Wellstone's re-election bid.

"She was a national leader," says psychologist Steve Peltier, PhD, a close family friend of McEvoy. "Her strength was being able to take research and public policy and put it into practice. That was her main focus, as well as developing coalitions of people, politicians and academicians."

--S. MARTIN