April 2022 Updates from The Kennedy Forum | The Kennedy Forum

April 2022 Updates from The Kennedy Forum
May 3, 2022

This month, The Kennedy Forum announced Rebecca O. Bagley as President and Chief Executive Officer. Rebecca will oversee efforts to expand the reach of promising practices in mental health policy, workplace mental health, school-based mental health, and health care integration. She has more than 20 years of experience collaborating with stakeholders through strategic partnerships that achieve shared goals and outcomes. More below.

More than 800 people registered for our latest webinar featuring HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. 

Policy Pulse

The Kennedy Forum led a letter to the House Energy & Commerce Committee in support of the “Mental Health Justice and Parity Act of 2022” ahead of the Committee’s April 5th hearing. The legislation would phase out “parity opt-outs” among self-funded state and local health plans, which leave many families with no recourse to challenge discriminatory coverage denials. Read ithere.  

This month, Georgia Governor Kemp signed into law a bill that includes elements of The Kennedy Forum’s Jim Ramstad Model State Parity Legislation, including requiring plans to follow generally accepted standards of care and requiring coverage of treatment in accordance with the AMA/APA medical necessity definition. Thank you to Speaker David Ralston, The Carter Center, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Georgia Chapter for making this happen! Learn more here.  

The Kennedy Forum signed two Well Being Working Group-led lettersOne to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee in support of the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) and other key bills that would help to remove barriers to mental health access by addressing root causes of health inequities, particularly those stemming from structural racism and one to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies asking for expanded funding in programs that would advance primary prevention and racial equity in mental health care services and curb rising rates of deaths from suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol use disorder.

As mentioned last month, the landmark Wit v. United Behavioral Healthcare (UBH) ruling was recently overturned by a three-judge panel. You can read more about it in our blog post here. The Wit attorneys and other groups, including The Kennedy Forum, are now fighting for justice. After all, what happens here will ultimately influence other insurers and set a precedent for how mental health and addiction treatment is covered nationwide. If you are interested in joining our efforts, please email Wit@thekennedyforum.org

Campaigns & Resources

The latest round of Don’t Deny Me campaign posts for partner organizations addressed a Stress Awareness Month and Alcohol Awareness Month. See sample posts here and here.

The Kennedy Forum is proud to be a Champion Partner for MTV’s second annual Mental Health Action Day (MHAD) on Thursday, May 19. The day is designed to shift our mental health culture from awareness to action—and empower people to take steps to improve their mental health just like they would their physical health. Learn more here. We’ll be hosting a free “Ask a therapist” session on Facebook Live with a Brightline behavioral therapist. Save the date! 5/19 at 2pm ET. More details coming soon via email. 

Made by Erik Ewers and Christopher Loren Ewers and produced by Ken Burns, Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness will premiere on PBS stations nationwide on June 27 and 28, 2022 at 9:00pm ET. It features first-person accounts from more than 20 young people who live with mental health conditions, as well as parents, teachers, friends, providers, and advocates, including former U.S. Rep. and founder of The Kennedy Forum, Patrick J. Kennedy. Watch the teaser here.

Elected officials often ask “Where’s the data? How many people will be impacted?” when it comes to advancing important issues around mental health and addiction care. By taking this short, confidential survey from NORC at the University of Chicago you can make a tremendous difference. If you or someone you know has a hard time finding care that your insurance will pay for, please click below. The survey is available in English or Spanish and will take about 5-15 minutes. You can respond for yourself or on behalf of someone you know, such as a family member, friend, or a patient.  

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing recently announced that applications are open for the 2022 Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) USA Doctoral Student Grants. Each year, the grants provide a one-time award of $5,000 to four outstanding full-time doctoral students who demonstrate significant potential as researchers in their fields of study and who are interested in evaluating the outcomes of MHFA trainings in the U.S. The application is due May 27, 2022.  

This month, the White House released its 2022 National Drug Control Strategy, which focuses on both untreated substance use disorder and drug trafficking. The report emphasizes harm reduction and access to Buprenorphine as well as the expansion of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic model and substance use disorder services in Federally Qualified Health Centers as avenues to building the treatment workforce and infrastructure we need. A fact sheet is available here.

Coalition Building

April 13 marked 95 days out from the launch of the 988 mental health crisis hotline. The Kennedy Forum continued to promote the CEO Alliance’s “A Consensus Approach and Recommendations for the Creation of a Comprehensive Crisis Response System,” which offers federal and state policymakers a tried-and-tested, evidence-based toolkit for implementing a full continuum of mental health and substance use care in conjunction with the federally mandated 988 crisis hotline for mental health emergencies that will be operational in July 2022.

This month, The Kennedy Forum team welcomed Rebecca O. Bagley as President and Chief Executive Officer. Rebecca will oversee efforts to expand the reach of promising practices in mental health policy, workplace mental health, school-based mental health, and health care integration. She will also lead initiatives designed to coalesce historically siloed communities and maximize collective impact. “Rebecca’s ability to harness the power of a vision is truly unique,” said former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. “In a world full of good ideas and intentions—but limited bandwidth—that’s incredibly important. She’s poised to build on the strong foundation of The Kennedy Forum and achieve tangible results in the most critical areas.” More here.

Youth Mental Health Focus

In late March, The Kennedy Forum and the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association (DLGA) hosted a special preview of Ken Burns’ new documentary, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness” at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) headquarters in Washington, DC. The screening was followed by a panel discussion about states’ actions to tackle the youth mental health crisis, moderated by The Kennedy Forum’s Education Director, Amy Kennedy. Read more about the event and watch a recording of the panel here.

In her latest blog post, “Mental health screenings for youth are critical: here’s how you can help,” Amy Kennedy addresses the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) new draft recommendation that all kids aged eight to 18 should be screened annually for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and all youth aged 12 to 18 should be screened annually for major depressive disorder (MDD). Read it here

Equity Focus

The Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity (KSCMHE) recently shared a blog post summarizing the fourth session in the organization’s five-part webinar series, “Criminal Justice and Equity: Bridging the Gaps.” The fourth session focused on re-entry programs and reducing recidivism. Read it here

In the News

Bloomberg Law covered The Kennedy Forum’s latest webinar, “Mental Health and Addiction Parity: Ensuring Equal Coverage in Medicaid and Marketplace Plans” held on April 26. “The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have worked to create new parity tools, Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said at a Kennedy Forum event.” Read the article here. 


On April 8th, The Kennedy Forum’s David Lloyd joined CEO of Project Heal, Rebecca Eyre to discuss recent developments in the Wit v. United Behavioral Health (UBH) case. Watch it here.

On April 26 The Kennedy Forum hosted “Mental Health and Addiction Parity: Ensuring Equal Coverage in Medicaid and Marketplace Plans,” a free webinar featuring U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra; Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use/Administrator of SAMHSA, Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon; Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy; Immediate Past President of AMA, Dr. Patrice Harris; President & CEO of the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Shawn Coughlin; and moderator/The Kennedy Forum Senior Policy Advisor, David Lloyd. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plays a critical role in helping to ensure Medicaid plans, Alternative Benefit Plans, Children’s Health Insurance Programs, ACA plans, and self-funded state and local government plans provide adequate coverage for tens of millions of Americans. Webinar attendees learned about HHS’s new parity efforts and much more. Watch the recording here

Upcoming Events

Second Annual Black Mental Health Roundtable 

May 11, 10-11:30am ET, Washington, DC 

The Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity, The National Alliance on Mental Health, the American Psychological Association, and Hurdle will host a mental health symposium to observe the anniversary of George Floyd’s death. An expert panel will discuss the qualitative analysis conducted by Hurdle Health’s team of clinical researchers on the Black experience of vicarious racism. 

Uniting the Global Community to Face the Challenge of Addiction ISSUP Annual Conference 

May 14, 8:30am (GST), Abu Dhabi 

International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP), International Consortium of Universities for Drug Demand Reduction (ICUDDR), U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) have collaborated to host this international conference. Patrick J. Kennedy will be keynoting a plenary session on prevention.

Alexandria Real Estate Summit 25th Anniversary Meeting

May 16, 1pm ET, Virtual

To honor the 25th Anniversary of Alexandria Real Estate Equities being a public company, leaders will host a series of Ted-Style Talks for 600 plus employees. Patrick J. Kennedy and Michael Phelps will have a 75-minute discussion titled  “A Common Struggle: The Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.”

Ask a Therapist Facebook Live

May 19, 2-3pm ET

A free session to explore common youth mental health conditions, symptoms, when to get help, etc. hosted by The Kennedy Forum and Brightline as part of MTV’s second annual Mental Health Action Day. 

Criminal Justice and Equity: Bridging the Gaps (Part 5) Housing Access and Environmental Support Systems
May 17, 11am-12:30pm ET 

The final session of the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity’s five-part webinar series, “Criminal Justice and Equity: Bridging the Gaps,” on the landscape of inequities that affect justice-involved individuals. Speakers: Schroeder Stribling, MSW, President and CEO of Mental Health America; Alexis Rosales, MPA, Executive Director of Business Development of Gateway Foundation, Inc.; Sarah Y. Vinson, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine; Terah Lawyer-Harper, BBA, Executive Director of CROP Organization.