January 2022 Updates from The Kennedy Forum | The Kennedy Forum

January 2022 Updates from The Kennedy Forum
January 31, 2022

On February 1, Patrick J. Kennedy will join President Bill Clinton and other leaders from the faith and public health communities for “Bridging Faith and Science to Combat the Overdose Crisis.” The virtual event is hosted in partnership by the Clinton Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and The Center for Responsible Leadership. Panelists will discuss the promise of a collaborative relationship; reducing stigma; prevention, treatment, and recovery; and advancing policies and programs that save lives. RSVP for the event below.

Policy Pulse

A new report from U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Department of the Treasury provides damning evidence that health plans continue to be out of compliance with the Federal Parity Act. “We now have solid data to show that practices such as denying coverage for autism treatment, nutritionists for individuals with eating disorders, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder are indeed commonplace. To combat this growing problem, The Kennedy Forum echoes DOL’s call for Congress to pass language included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act that would allow the Department to fine health plans for such blatant parity violations.” Read Patrick J. Kennedy’s full statement here

We recently sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra urging CMS to update the Medicaid School Health Technical Assistance Guide and Administrative Claiming Guide so schools can be better equipped to address the youth mental health crisis. These guides, outlining how schools can bill Medicaid, haven’t been updated since 1997 and 2003 respectively. These outdated instructions create confusion and add barriers for schools that use Medicaid to fund mental health services. Read the letter here.

End Substance Use Disorder is a coalition that engages respected changemakers from across the country to educate the public and secure reforms proven to prevent overdoses and stem the tide of the substance use disorder crisis. The group is asking everyone to urge Congress to pass the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (H.R. 1384 / S. 445).

The law would eliminate outdated restrictions on prescribing the lifesaving recovery medication buprenorphine and expand access to education on best practices for treating substance use disorder. Follow directions to email your representatives here

The Health Resources and Services Administration accepted updates to existing Bright Futures guidelines that include adding universal screening for suicide risk to the current Depression Screening category for individuals ages 12-21, and new guidance for behavioral, social, and emotional screening. The Bright Futures Program develops evidence-informed guidelines for preventive care screenings and routine visits for newborns through adolescents up to age 21. Learn more here

This month, we led a group of national advocacy organizations—including NAMI, MHA, Legal Action Center, Families USA, National Health Law Program, and Inseparable—in providing comments on CMS’ proposed network adequacy standards. Read the letter here

ICYMI: The Kennedy Forum was pleased to see the Boston Globe’s recent editorial addressing the Medicaid Reentry Act (included in the Build Back Better bill), which would allow Medicaid to start covering individuals 30 days prior to their release from jail or prison, a critical step toward ensuring continuity of care for incarcerated individuals upon release. “When people are released from prison, they face a much greater risk of experiencing serious health issues or dying than the general population — especially in their first two weeks back in free society. That’s in part because people who are incarcerated are already more likely to suffer from health problems, ranging from diabetes to mental illness to substance use disorder. But it’s also because upon release from prison, coming across medical care or treatment is not easy. In some cases, people will lose access to potentially life-saving medication altogether.” Read the full editorial here.

Campaigns & Resources

Our latest round of Don’t Deny Me campaign posts for partner organizations addressed prioritizing mental health in the new year and coping with a new phase of the pandemic. See sample posts here and here.

ACT Now for Mental Health (ANMH) has launched a low-cost provider network. They are offering FREE telehealth therapy services on a limited basis to young adults ages 17-30, especially those who have been historically underserved by the health care system. Sign up here

Have you or someone you know had a hard time finding mental health or addiction care that your insurance will pay for? Or a provider who doesn’t have a long waitlist? If so, please take this important survey from NORC at the University of Chicago. Your confidential responses could help drive policy change that would make a difference for everyone. The survey is available in English or Spanish and takes about 5 to 15 minutes to complete. You can respond for yourself or on behalf of someone you know, such as a family member, friend, or patient. Get started.

Equity Focus

In support of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute’s (SHLI) commitment to create systemic change at the intersection of policy and equity, the Health Equity Tracker (HET) team is excited to announce the expansion of the health outcomes offerings of the tracker through the creation of a “Behavioral Health” category and the addition of six (6) indicators: Frequent Mental Distress, Depression, Suicide (Deaths), Illicit Opioid Use, Non-Medical Drug Use, and Alcohol Use (Excessive Drinking). More here.

Image of the Health Equity Tracker map

Education Focus

In a new blog post, Amy Kennedy, education director of The Kennedy Forum, discusses state efforts to address mental health staffing shortages in schools. “Because schools already do their best to facilitate mental health services for many children—and have the most face-time with America’s youth—it’s critical that we invest in additional resources and a strong infrastructure of support that includes an adequate number of mental health professionals onsite.” Read the full blog post here

Effective School Solutions (ESS), a leading provider of embedded whole school mental health services, and the Madison Holleran Foundation recently announced the 3rd Annual Madison Holleran Mental Health Action Scholarship. Madison Holleran was a 2013 graduate of Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, NJ, where she excelled in academics as well as being a stellar athlete. She went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and was a member of the track team. Tragically, Madison took her own life during the spring semester of her freshman year. ESS and the Madison Holleran Foundation have named this scholarship in Madison’s memory to not only drive awareness about suicide prevention, but also to hear from high school students about innovative approaches they believe their schools can take to help young adults navigate through the mental health challenges they are facing. Learn more here

A new CDC study published in LGBTQ Health demonstrates the positive impact that implementing school policies and practices supportive of LGBTQ youth has on the psychosocial health of youth who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) and on their heterosexual peers. LGBTQ-supportive school policies and practices that promote protective factors include: Gender and Sexuality Alliances or Gay-Straight Alliances(GSAs); Safe spaces where LGBTQ youth can get support from school staff; Policies prohibiting sexual and gender identity-based harassmentProfessional development for staff on LGBTQ-related issues; LGBTQ-inclusive curricula; and Access to LGBTQ-friendly social, psychological, and health services outside of school. Read about the study here

CDC Healthy Schools has created a new tip sheet for parents and families and a new toolkit for schools to heighten awareness of and improve communication about social and emotional climate and learning. 

National School Counseling Week 2022 (#NSCW22), sponsored by American School Counselor Association, is Feb. 7-11, 2022. View a promotional toolkit here.

In the News

Patrick and Ryan Hampton’s new op-ed in The Hill, “A year into Biden’s presidency, we’re only burying more overdose victims,” addresses four key components necessary for a more strategic, coordinated response to the overdose crisis. “The most powerful tool would be triggering emergency declarations for states under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, an action that was recommended to President Trump by the Opioid Commission in 2017.” Read more here

The Kennedy Forum’s David Lloyd penned an op-ed for CalMatters in support of AB 933, a bill that would address cost barriers that so frequently prevent people from getting help. “By requiring that at least 90% of prescription drug rebates go back to patients, the state can lower medication costs for Californians and ensure more dollars go toward direct patient care…People living with mental illness, and all Californians faced with health issues that require prescription medications, will benefit greatly.” Read the op-ed here.


On January 18, Patrick joined the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity’s new webinar series, “Criminal Justice and Equity: Bridging the Gaps.” The first session explored Policy Implementation & Data Use. Learn more and watch a recording here.

Upcoming Events

Bridging Faith and Science to Combat the Overdose Crisis 
February 1, 2022
The Clinton Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and The Centre for Responsible Leadership are convening national science and faith leaders to explore the promise of a collaborative relationship; reduce stigma about addiction; educate about prevention, treatment, and recovery; and advance policies and programs that save lives. Participants for this session include President Bill Clinton, Patrick J. Kennedy, Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, H.E. Dr. Mohammad Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Ellen J. MacKenzie, Ph.D., ScM, and Shannon Frattaroli, Ph.D., MPH.

Criminal Justice and Equity: Bridging the Gaps 
(Part 2) Behavioral Health Equity and Incarceration 

February 15, 2022 

The second 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.

Inaugural Psychiatry Summit 2022 
March 24-26, 2022 
Join health care professionals from around the world for this unique virtual opportunity to enhance knowledge and improve patient outcomes. U.S.-based and international experts will discuss the latest advances in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of psychiatric illnesses, debate controversies in the field, and share clinical knowledge. Patrick’s featured keynote: “The Pursuit of Mental Health Equity,” will air March 24th at 10AM EST.