June 2021 Updates from The Kennedy Forum
June 30, 2021

This month, The Kennedy Forum joined more than a dozen of the nation’s leading patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, in praising the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The groups, representing millions of patients with serious illnesses—including mental illnesses—had previously filed a joint amicus brief in support of upholding the law. Details below.

Image from our June Don’t Deny Me toolkit
celebrate Pride Month

Policy Pulse

California AB988, a bill co-sponsored by The Kennedy Forum, Steinberg Institute, Justice for Miles Hall: The Miles Hall Foundation, NAMI Contra Costa, Contra Costa county, NAMI California, and Mental Health America of California passed the California Assembly 70-0. This legislation will implement a critically needed alternative to 911 for people experiencing mental health crises. The Kennedy Forum thanked AB988 author Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan for her leadership, as well as co-authors Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson, 64th District, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, and Assemblymember Jim Frazier for their strong support on the Assembly floor. 

The Kennedy Forum endorsed bipartisan, bicameral legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) that would authorize $25 million in grants to states to support their oversight of health insurance plans’ compliance with mental health parity requirements. Learn more about The Parity Implementation Assistance Act here.

The landmark court decision, Wit vs United Behavioral Health, is back in the news as United Behavioral Health (UBH) has appealed the lower court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

The judge had originally ruled that UBH developed and implemented flawed medical necessity criteria for mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) treatment services. Read more in The Kennedy Forum’s latest blog post.

The Kennedy Forum joined more than a dozen of the nation’s leading patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, in praising the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the health care law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The groups, representing millions of patients with serious illnesses, including mental illnesses, filed a joint amicus brief in support of upholding the law. Read more here.

Campaigns & Resources

The Kennedy Forum’s latest round of Don’t Deny Me campaign posts for partner organizations addressed PTSD Awareness Month, Men’s Health Week, and Pride Month. See sample posts herehere and here.

In June, The Kennedy Forum joined other leading mental health groups in developing a special set of materials to help advocates and policymakers advance 988, the new mental health crisis line, nationwide. Items include a messaging toolkit for newsletters and social media, an infographic, federal and state policymaker one-pagers, and a customizable PowerPoint presentation. Please download here and share widely.

Upcoming Events

WEBINAR: The Essential Role of Organized Labor in Addressing Workplace Mental Health
July 22, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the urgent need for better access to mental health care and mental health supports for America’s workforce. American employers now have a unique opportunity to course correct and prioritize whole person care to ensure long-term health and productivity of their employees. “The Essential Role of Organized Labor in Addressing Workplace Mental Health,” will explore the ways in which labor leaders plan to advance this paradigm shift, working with businesses and organizations nationwide to ensure workers get the support they need.

National Opioid and Substance Awareness Day
September 21, 2021
Save the date! 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. 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.

Coalition Building

The Kennedy Forum recently welcomed Madhuri Jha, LCSW, MPJ, as the new director of the Kennedy Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity (KSCMHE), an organization established by the 16th U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, and former U.S. Rep. Kennedy in 2015.

Building on their longstanding relationship and shared commitment to promoting mental health parity and health equity for people living with mental health and substance use disorders, the Center was made possible through a generous endowment from The Kennedy Forum, and matched by MSM’s endowment from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. KSCHME’s vision is to ensure that all people have equitable access to behavioral health care and the opportunities to achieve optimal health outcomes. Learn more about KSCMHE’s vision and work in Madhuri Jha’s latest blog post here.

In the News

Patrick J. Kennedy and Dan Gillison of NAMI, who are both affiliated with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19 (National Response) and the CEO Huddle, co-authored an op-ed for The Hill focused on policy actions needed to ensure the new 988 crisis response system is fully funded and equipped for rollout in July 2022. Read here.

This month, Patrick was featured in a Forbes column titled “How Former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy’s Own Experience With Addiction Led Him To Become One Of Our Nation’s Most Ardent Mental Healthcare Champions” written by Bill Frist, surgeon, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and host of the podcast “A Second Opinion, Rethinking American Health.” Read here.

“I am for a mental health literacy starting in elementary school to help people understand their thought processes and the fact that they don’t have to act on their feelings as I did most of my life by self-medicating … Like exercise, we should practice skill building.” – Patrick J. Kennedy


Patrick and Amy Kennedy, education director of The Kennedy Forum, recently joined The Chopra Foundation’s Never Alone Summit for a segment on youth, teen, and family mental health. Speakers included Deepak Chopra, Russel Brand, Jewel, Diane von Furstenberg, Russel Wilson, and more. Watch here.  

The Kennedy Forum Illinois recently held a virtual “Spotlight Series” event titled “The Way Forward: A discussion on the future of mental healthcare.” Patrick J. Kennedy; Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America; Dan Gillison, CEO of NAMI; and Cheryl Potts, executive director of The Kennedy Forum Illinois explored changes we need to get more Americans connected to addiction treatment and prevent people with serious mental illness from ending up on the streets, languishing in jails, or dying prematurely rather than receiving compassionate care. Watch here.