NEW YORK – On May 21, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) introduced the Michelle Alyssa Go Act outside of the subway station where the namesake for this bill was tragically killed in January by a 61-year-old man who showed signs of schizophrenia, but lacked access to adequate, consistent care. While most people with severe mental illnesses are not violent, this horrific incident raised questions about how to address our country’s mental health system and led the Congresswoman to introduce this legislation to improve Medicaid coverage of mental health services.
Under current federal law, Medicaid is prohibited from covering stays for patients between the ages of 21 and 64 who are receiving mental health or substance abuse treatment in a facility with more than 16 beds. This prohibition, also known as the Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, has been in effect since Medicaid was created in 1965 and has resulted in people like the individual who killed Ms. Go not being able to access care, as they do not have the money to cover these services out of their own pockets.
The Michelle Alyssa Go Act will repeal the IMD exclusion and allow facilities with more than 16 beds to be reimbursed by Medicaid. This legislation also requires facilities to meet nationally recognized, evidence-based standards for mental health or substance use disorder programs. The legislation is supported by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Partnership for New York City, and the Treatment Advocacy Center.
“Four months ago, a young Asian-American woman named Michelle Go was tragically killed when a man pushed her in front of a moving subway train. A daughter, a sister, a friend, and a member of the New York Junior League, Go worked at Deloitte and spent her free time helping women and children in at-risk communities as well as the homeless. And what’s so devastating is that her death could have possibly been prevented, if only we had adequate mental health resources in New York City. Go was killed by a 61-year-old man who showed signs of schizophrenia, but lacked access to adequate, consistent care. That is why I am introducing the Michelle Go Act. Under current federal law, Medicaid is prohibiting from paying for care in facilities that have more than sixteen beds. This prohibition, also known as the institution for mental disease or IMD exclusion, has resulted in people like the individual who killed Ms. Go not being able to access care, as they do not have the money to cover these services out of their own pockets. The Michelle Alyssa Go Act will repeal the IMD exclusion and allow facilities with more than 16 beds to be reimbursed by Medicaid,” said Rep. Maloney.
“The government does not adequately take care of New Yorkers’ mental health, made even more evident after a two-year long pandemic. Michelle Go was my constituent, and we lost her due to this mental health crisis. Right now, Medicaid is forbidden from covering stays for most patients receiving mental health or substance abuse treatment in a facility with over 16 beds. Congresswoman Maloney is rightfully trying to fix this injustice, and I applaud her for making New Yorkers’ mental health a priority. Approaching this issue from all levels of government, Albany is also pushing legislation to require the State to do what it can to give people who need mental health treatment the care they deserve — regardless of ability to pay,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
“The death of Michelle Alyssa Go was an immense tragedy for New York City. In the wake of this horrific incident, I’m very glad that Congresswoman Maloney is taking action in her honor to increase access to mental health services. As our city continues to mourn, it’s imperative that we’re addressing disparities in our healthcare system and ensuring every person has sufficient mental health care access,” said Councilmember Keith Powers.