As The Kennedy Forum begins our 10th year, we’re eager to build on recent victories to advance the creation of mental health and substance use systems that work for every American. The need has never been greater: the aftermath of the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and other social challenges have resulted in higher incidents of substance use and challenged mental health across the country. We have an unprecedented opportunity to build positive and lasting change in our system. We’re ready to take on the challenge, and hope you will join us.
Our vision of Mental Health as Essential Health will guide us to:
Pursue Policy Changes that Increase Access to Care
We will build upon our recent state and federal victories that are increasing access to mental health and addiction services for millions of Americans. From ensuring coverage parity across all types of health plans through strong enforcement and closing gaps in the law, to working with self-insured employers to provide them critical tools to improve coverage, we are building coalitions to advance the urgent systemic changes needed to save lives.
Convene Diverse Stakeholders to Ensure Alignment and Progress
Through gatherings of diverse stakeholders, we will continue to identify roadblocks and galvanize key actions to bring about much-needed change in our systems of delivering, receiving, and paying for mental health and substance use care.
On October 3-4, 2023, The Kennedy Forum will host our annual event which will include a celebration and thoughtful discussions among stakeholders. As October 2023 marks the 15th anniversary of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy signing the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, this two-day event will use the past as a lens through which we will plan the way forward. We look forward to commemorating these milestones with you this year.
Aligning the Policy Framework for the Movement
A key element of The Forum’s work this year will be building the definitive policy guide that articulates actionable solutions to addressing mental health and addiction in this country. The guide will lay out the paths to parity, integrated care, incentivizing value in service delivery, removing barriers to care, integrating social supports, and other critical issues. It will serve as a resource for advocates and policymakers to push fundamental systems change that will benefit all Americans.
Ensuring Youth Have Access and Support
Youth mental health challenges are at a crisis level: youth mental health hospitalizations rose 61% between 2016 and 2021. We know one-third of mental health conditions present by the age of 14 and half by age 18, so it’s essential that we advance youth-based strategies and solutions. Having access to mental health supports and coverage where youth live, learn, work, and play is critical. Systemic change happens when we address the whole of a child’s life, from accessible and innovative prevention and early intervention, to coordinated and effective care. We have developed a set of policy recommendations and partnerships to implement these recommendations.
It’s time to build a better system. We invite you to join us.
There’s still a long way to go in achieving Mental Health as Essential Health, so we’re hitting the ground running in the new year, ready to drive change. Won’t you join us? Follow us on social media or donate to support the vital work we do. Together we can make a difference.
Happy new year!