July 2021 Updates from The Kennedy Forum | The Kennedy Forum

July 2021 Updates from The Kennedy Forum
July 28, 2021

This month, founder Patrick J. Kennedy and Amy Kennedy, education director of The Kennedy Forum, joined Lt. Governor of Delaware, Bethany Hall-Long, for a discussion around behavioral health initiatives and the expansion of social emotional learning for students in Delaware thanks to funds from the American Rescue Plan. “We want to know that the students are part of this conversation. That they can speak to how easy or difficult it has been to access care…we want to know what they need. It really is all about the power of ‘we,’ empowering the students, and that help-seeking skill that they need.” – Amy Kennedy. Learn more below.

Patrick and Amy Kennedy at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware on July 13, 2021.

Policy Pulse

In July, we joined 135 national and local organizations in supporting the Medicaid Reentry Act of 2021, which would allow Medicaid to cover health services 30 days before an individual is released from prison or jail. Read more here.  

We also signed on to a letter to United Healthcare Chief Executive Officer Brian Thompson following the announcement of a new policy to allow for the retroactive denial of coverage for emergency care, which will have serious medical consequences for patients with mental health and substance use disorders. Read more here.
Patrick applauded Chair Rosa DeLauro and the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee for prioritizing parity enforcement and behavioral crisis response in their latest funding bill. Learn more about the bill here.   

We issued a press release marking one year out from the Congressional deadline of July 16, 2022 for states to facilitate the necessary infrastructure to support a new 988 mental health crisis line. Only three states have passed adequate legislation to implement and fund critical components of the system. Read the full release here.  
Patrick wrote a blog post addressing the problem with proposed Medicare “fixes” not addressing a current lack of mental health and addiction treatment coverage for more than 62 million Americans—even as overdose rates his record highs in 2020, per the CDC this month. Read it here.  

We pushed for better access to data to be able to identify mental health/addiction trends and hotspots more quickly to save lives. Often, the most consequential data we have comes in the form of death rates, which are published one to two years after collection. Read more here.

The Kennedy Forum recognized Oregon governor Kate Brown for signing HB 3046 B into law—and State Representative for House District 42, Rob Nosse, for championing the cause. The bill, which was informed by components of our Jim Ramstad Model State Parity Legislationwill require that state health insurers follow generally accepted standards of care when making medical necessity decisions. This means better access to mental health and addiction treatment! Read more here.

Campaigns & Resources

Our latest round of Don’t Deny Me campaign posts for partner organizations addressed BIPOC Mental Health Month andInternational Self-Care Day. See sample posts here and here.

Davis Direction Foundation recently launched a magazine for (and by) the recovery community called RECOVERY ZONE. The inaugural edition includes an interview with Darren Waller, the Las Vegas Raiders tight end who lives in long-term recovery. It also includes some great tips on developing an individual recovery plan, dating while sober, COVID-19 recovery strategies, and more.

Carmen Bombeke, who shared her powerful story at a 2019 Kennedy Forum event on Capitol Hill, recently released “Health Care Coverage for the Relentless: Insurance essentials from a mother’s quest for mental health parity.” In the guide, Carmen details important lessons learned from her family’s nearly 4-year journey attempting to secure care (and reimbursement) for their son’s mental health challenges. Download it here. Watch a video of Carmen here.


We will be part of the first ever National Opioid and Substance Awareness Day (NOSAD) on Tuesday, September 21 (during Recovery Month).

The day will be formally recognized with a live virtual town hall (details coming soon). Topics of discussion will include an overview of the science of addiction, the value of naloxone and evidence-based treatments, and the impact of COVID-19. Other elements of NOSAD include free online, anonymous screenings, introduction to SAMHSA’s treatment locator, and more. Check out this short, animated video about NOSAD created by The Kennedy Forum.

Equity Focus

In her monthly blog post titled “Saving the Lives of the Invisible,” Madhuri Jha, LCSW, MPJ, director of the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity (KSCMHE), explores the urgent need to give voice to human lives that have been ignored by federal policies and demand those policies rectify past traumas. As Madhuri explains, “…the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has now spent a full year stalled in the Senate.  This stall validates a long-standing discomfort our system has in acknowledging the historical intersection between mental illness, oppression, and the criminal justice system.” Read the full post here.

Education Focus

A new report released by Mental Health America documents alarming trends in youth mental health, evaluates state legislative solutions, and provides recommendations for school-based mental health efforts. Amy Kennedy, education director of The Kennedy Forum and board member of Mental Health America, called the report a “necessary reality check for policy makers that will hopefully inspire urgently needed action.” See the report, as well as helpful advocacy resources such as a printable infographic, here.

In the News

Mental health advocates discuss future of student support systems
Delaware Public Media, July 14, 2021
“I guarantee 90 percent of my colleagues do not appreciate this whole discussion…how significant social and emotional learning is to learning…and that you can’t have numeracy and literacy if you don’t first have kids who are able to absorb that information,” Kennedy said.


On July 13, 2021, Patrick and Amy Kennedy joined Lt. Governor of Delaware, Bethany Hall-Long, for a discussion around behavioral health initiatives and the expansion of social emotional learning for students in Delaware via funds from the American Rescue Plan. Other participants included officials from the Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Department of Services for Children, Colonial School District, and the Life Health Center. Watch the discussion here.  

On July 22, 2021, The Kennedy Forum held a free webinar, “The Essential Role of Organized Labor in Addressing Workplace Mental Health”featuring President Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working men and woman; President Lee Saunders of the AFSCME; Abby H. Morris, M.D., medical director of the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery; and former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. Read a description of the event and watch the full video here

Upcoming Events

National Opioid and Substance Awareness Day
September 21, 2021

National Opioid and Substance Awareness Day will take place on Tuesday, September 21. Patrick J. Kennedy will be part of a virtual town hall the same day from 12-3pm ET. Topics of discussion will include an overview of the science of addiction, the value of naloxone and evidence-based treatments, and the impact of COVID-19. Other elements of NOSAD include free online, anonymous screenings, introduction to SAMHSA’s treatment locator, and more.

Mental Health Equity is Health Equity
September 28 & 29, 2021 | 11am-2pm daily
A 2-day virtual speaker symposium from the Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity (KSCMHE). Topics of discussion will include policy and data, clinical services, cultural sensitivity, and more. More details coming soon.

The Kennedy Forum’s Sixth Annual Meeting
October 6 & 13, 2021

Join The Kennedy Forum’s Sixth Annual Meeting, “Our Words Matter: Harnessing the Power of Communications to Advance Mental Health Equity” on October 6th & 13th from 1pm – 5pm ET/12pm – 4pm CT/11am – 3pm MT/10am – 2pm PT. More information about registration and speakers coming soon.

View sponsorship opportunities here. To learn more, please reach out directly to Cheryl Potts at Cheryl@thekennedyforum.org.