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Examining an Anti-Parity Op-Ed

October 25, 2008
by Daniel Guarnera
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On Oct. 23, the Baltimore Sun ran a provocative op-ed called "'Parity' Through Back Door." The piece was written by Richard Vatz, a professor at Towson University in Maryland, and Jeffrey Schaler, a professor at American University in Washington, D.C. (and my alma mater). Both co-authors have written numerous articles that call into question disease-focused models of addiction and mental illness.

It should go without saying that I think fair, intellectually honest people can hold differing opinions on parity—over the past few years I have spoken with more than one addiction professional who opposed the law. Dialogue, debate, and discussion are all valuable and essential. That being said, this op-ed is misleading and inaccurate in several ways.

As the title suggests, the op-ed’s main thesis is that it’s a bad thing that "such a contentious, scientifically questionable and potentially expensive piece of legislation was passed through the back door" as part of the $700 billion economic rescue package. The implication is that parity could not have passed on its own and only succeeded as the result of some fancy political trickery.

The reality of politics is that it's messy, and more often than not compromises and deal-making result in bills passing in unusual or unexpected ways. If you’re going to make the charge that a provision was a sneaky evasion of the “real” political process, then it would help to provide evidence that this was the case.

In the case of parity, the evidence is extremely clear--parity had a broad base of support, and the votes to prove it. Consider:

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Daniel Guarnera

Daniel Guarnera is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...