July 2020 Updates from The Kennedy Forum | The Kennedy Forum

July 2020 Updates from The Kennedy Forum
July 28, 2020

Now, more than ever, mental health advocacy is critical to building the integrated system we need. The Kennedy Forum continues to engage virtually with policymakers, partner organizations, government agencies, and business leaders to spark lasting change. Read more about recent activity below.

Policy Pulse

On Tuesday, June 30, Patrick testified during the virtual legislative hearing, “High Anxiety and Stress: Legislation to Improve Mental Health During Crisis.” The Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce considered more than 20 bills addressing everything from Medicare coverage, helping emergency responders, mental health parity, suicide prevention and screening, telehealth, and more. Read more and watch the testimony here

California Senate Bill 855, a bill sponsored by The Kennedy Forum and Steinberg Institute that will hold health insurers accountable for covering all medically necessary mental health and addiction care, passed the Senate floor and is now being considered by the Assembly Health Committee. Read this blog post about the need for reform by Meiram Bendat, J.D., Ph.D., a California psychotherapist, attorney, and founder of Psych Appeal, the first private law firm in the U.S. exclusively specializing in mental health insurance advocacy on behalf of patients and providers. The Kennedy Forum would like to thank Sutter Health for generously supporting work to advance mental health parity in California.

The Kennedy Forum recently signed on to a Mental Health Liaison Group letter urging the Senate to increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) matching rate for Medicaid by another 7.8 percentage points. This is critical to supporting state Medicaid programs from cuts during state budget crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the letter here

Additionally, The Kennedy Forum signed this letter from Trust for America’s Health urging the Administration to affirm the critical role of the CDC and resist any efforts to undermine its mission during the pandemic; and a letter from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention urging passage of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Designation Act. The Forum also submitted comments to the Texas Dept. of Insurance supporting their draft parity reporting requirements, and to the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s proposed revisions to the MHPAEA Self-Compliance Tool.

Parity progress! On Wednesday, July 15, the Illinois Department of Insurance (IDOI) announced fines against five major insurance companies for violating the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Federal Parity Law), which requires health plans to cover treatment for mental health and substance use disorders no more restrictively than treatment for illnesses of the body, such as diabetes and cancer. The fines were applauded by The Kennedy Forum Illinois, which has been instrumental in efforts to hold Illinois insurers accountable and connect more people to care. Read more here.

Campaigns & Resources

The Kennedy Forum’s latest round of Don’t Deny Me campaign posts for partner organizations addressed BIPOC Mental Health Month and summer stress due to COVID-19. See posts here and here.

Patrick authored a special blog post for The Kennedy Forum about the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its critical protections for those with mental illness. To accompany the post, The Kennedy Forum created a #ADA30 social media toolkit for partner organizations that included a custom infographic. 

Inseparable, the new nonpartisan movement created to drive political change around mental health and addiction, launched an online campaign/petition to pressure Congress to #FundMentalHealth. Patrick, who serves on the advisory board of Inseparable, recorded the campaign video. Watch it here

Coalition Building

Mental Health for Us, for which The Kennedy Forum serves as a coalition leader and Patrick J. Kennedy serves as co-chair, is a nonpartisan educational initiative designed to elevate mental health and addiction in policy conversations during the 2020 election cycle. Recent initiatives include a social media campaign entitled “#TalkaboutMentalHealth” designed to encourage discussions at presidential nominating conventions, and a “We Vote” pledge to encourage voter registration for the 2020 general election.

The Kennedy Forum recently attended the monthly Zoom meeting of the Well Being Working Group, which was created to focus attention and generate action on primary prevention to combat substance misuse, suicide, and mental and emotional distress. Dr. Deb Houry, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, was the featured speaker for June. The Center’s focus areas are ACEs prevention, Overdose Prevention, and Suicide prevention. Learn more about their important work here.

Media Coverage  

Patrick was recently interviewed by mobihealthnews about Pear Therapeutics’ Recovery Access Coalition, which aims to eliminate access barriers to digital therapies for those with substance use disorders. “[FDA-cleared digital therapeutics] have the ability of tracking the data in very measurable ways. So, the value, in a world where payers loathe to reimburse for new therapies, these therapies have what the insurance world often complains about not having enough of – and that is evidence.” Read the full article here.  

MedPage Today covered the recent House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on bills to address the mental health and addiction care crisis and referenced Patrick’s testimony: “We’re still in deep denial about these illnesses and their pervasiveness…Exhibit A is that Congress never really appropriated the necessary resources…and they never enforced the parity Act.” Read the full article here


On June 25, Patrick participated in a webinar hosted by the National Center for State Courts titled, “Addressing Court Workplace Mental Health and Well-being in Tense Times.” The webinar explored tips and resources to help court leaders better support judge and employee mental health and well-being as courts cautiously resume full operations. Watch a recording of the webinar here

On June 24, Patrick joined Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at NIH, for a Research!America Alliance webinar. Request to view the recording here