Partner Brian Hufford Receives National Mental Health Award

D. Brian  Hufford
Brian Hufford

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP is pleased to announce that partner D. Brian Hufford has been honored with the Rona and Ken Purdy Award to End Discrimination by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Mr. Hufford received the award for his leadership in advancing NAMI’s mission to raise public awareness of and reduce stigma around mental health and to “build better lives for people with mental illness and their families.”

Mr. Hufford and his team are leading a national effort to ensure that mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse treatment claims receive adequate and appropriate coverage from insurers. This work has led to numerous precedent-setting decisions and delivered settlements that have compensated patients, including two of the largest recoveries ever obtained in health insurance class actions. It has also resulted in insurers making permanent improvements to their coverage policies and led to government action resulting in new and emerging regulatory protections for those combatting mental health challenges.

Reacting to the NAMI honor, Mr. Hufford said, “This has been a deeply personal fight for me, one that has been an outgrowth of the priorities of my parents in their own professional careers and an area where I have felt I had an opportunity to improve the lives of those suffering. Our legal effort has resulted in significant strides in delivering much-needed transparency to insured individuals and their families and in making patients whole after some of the toughest health hurdles they have faced. While the fight is far from over, it’s a great honor to have this work recognized by NAMI, and we are very thankful for the tremendous support we’ve received from the mental health community.”

The award was presented to Mr. Hufford virtually at NAMI’s annual conference, NAMICon, which convened more than 6,000 mental health leaders and advocates across the country.

The mental health effort is part of Zuckerman Spaeder’s national practice representing patients and health care providers in disputes with health insurance companies. The practice’s groundbreaking application of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and other related federal and state laws have received high-level support from Congressional leaders and the U.S. Department of Labor, which has filed four amicus briefs supporting Zuckerman Spaeder cases in the Second, Third, Fifth, and Eighth Circuit Courts of Appeals, with our clients obtaining successful decisions each time.

Mr. Hufford and his team’s 2019 landmark win in Wit v. United Behavioral Health is considered to be one of the most significant legal cases in the decades-long fight for mental health parity and has been lauded as the “Brown v. Board of Education for the mental health movement” by former U.S. Representative and mental health advocate Patrick Kennedy.

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Kalie Walrath
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