April Updates | The Kennedy Forum

April Updates
April 21, 2023

Monthly Spotlight 

At The Kennedy Forum, we continue to monitor the landmark case, Wit v. United Behavioral Health and use our platform to advocate on behalf of the plaintiffs. The outcome of this case will have widespread ramifications for all those seeking mental health and substance use care, and we are committed to keeping our community informed. Here we outline some recent updates.

In January, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals released a new ruling in the landmark Wit v. United Behavioral Health case. Our Chief Policy Officer, David Lloyd, characterized this action by saying, “The panel essentially held that individuals denied mental health and addiction coverage have no right to the processing of their claims which is deeply problematic and will severely damage Americans’ rights to not only mental health and addiction coverage but also any health coverage, retirement or other benefits under ERISA.”

In March, we joined other advocates in submitting an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. Notably, 15 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Department of Labor also submitted amici briefs. Our Founder, Patrick Kennedy, shared this message: “The U.S. Department of Labor’s support for a rehearing in the Wit v. United Behavioral Health (UBH) sends a powerful message that the latest Ninth Circuit panel ruling was deeply flawed and imperils the rights to millions of Americans seeking mental health and addiction treatment.” Read his full statement here.

For background on Wit v. United check out our landing page here.

March Coverage Highlights

  • President Biden’s budget proposal includes several critical mental health and addiction items including expanding parity requirements to Medicare, investing in crisis services, and growing the provider workforce.
  • Illinois continues to lead the nation on enforcing parity requirements, most recently by taking action to enforce adequate networks of mental health and substance use providers. 
  • KFF analysis of 988 metrics data finds that crisis line response rates increased and wait times decreased significantly following the implementation of 988.

March Youth Mental Health Highlights

  • We are actively supporting New Jersey Bill A3334 which requires Medicaid to reimburse schools for mental health services.
  • We are also supporting several bills out of California, including SB 509 which requires mental health education curriculum and training for teachers.
  • American Psychological Association released a new study on the ways social media impacts young people’s self-esteem.

NEW: Announcing The Kennedy Forum’s “Alignment for Progress” 

It’s Time to Act 

It’s time to act. This October, The Kennedy Forum will convene stakeholders, policy leaders, and more to align behind our shared goal for a progress to meet this moment in history.

We find ourselves in a critical moment of need—and of opportunity. In the aftermath of a global pandemic and amid ongoing economic uncertainty, the United States is experiencing an unprecedented mental health and substance use crisis. Drug addiction and deaths by overdose are increasing year over year. Suicide attempts and ideation are at emergency levels among teens and younger adults. Older Americans report greater feelings of loneliness than at any other time in history. The numbers of citizens experiencing houselessness has risen since the years before Covid—both a cause and an effect of mental health distress. The evidence is clear: The current system of mental health and substance use care is not working. 

But the will to change exists. That’s why we’re calling, urgently, for an Alignment for Progress—an action-oriented coming together of vision, commitment, and investment with the goal of redirecting the future of care. Our work will be aimed at clearing paths to parity; furthering the advancement of evidence-based practices, politics, and programming; and overseeing a measurable movement towards population-level progress and change. 

We’ll share more about our plans, our partnerships, and our goals over the next several months. There will be roles for everyone in the community to play, and we look forward to working together to make change.

For more information on our movement, please visit our new website here.