April 2021 Updates from The Kennedy Forum | The Kennedy Forum

April 2021 Updates from The Kennedy Forum
April 29, 2021

This month, an important parity bill in Illinois, HB2595, passed the House 114-0. It will require all health plans in Illinois to follow generally accepted standards of mental health care (best practices agreed upon by clinical experts) when making medical necessity determinations and use medical necessity criteria/guidelines reflecting these standards. The Kennedy Forum Illinois was instrumental in advancing HB2595. More below.

Policy Pulse

In April, The Kennedy Forum, The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and 97 additional education, mental health, civil rights, and youth advocacy organizations sent a letter urging the Department of Education to issue guidance that supports schools to prioritize supplemental funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for mental health services and supports as students return to in-person learning. Read more in a blog post from The Kennedy Forum’s education director, Amy Kennedy, here.

Amid rising overdose rates, we led a letter with the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW), Shatterproof, and 60+ other organizations asking HHS Secretary Becerra to take action to reduce barriers associated with the X-Waiver, which is required to prescribe buprenorphine, one of three FDA-approved medication-assisted treatments (MAT) indicated for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). “Tens of thousands of Americans are needlessly dying each year from opioid overdoses because federal law limits access to life-saving treatment. The Administration should take immediate executive action to reduce the deadly effects of the discriminatory X-Waiver, while calling upon Congress to eliminate it entirely.” – Patrick J. Kennedy. Read the full letter here. Several weeks after the letter was sent, the Administration announced steps to reduce treatment barriers associated with X-Waiver, though Congress still must repeal the waiver requirement entirely. (Learn more about the problematic X-Waiver in our blog post from earlier this year.)

The Kennedy Forum endorsed the Honoring National Recovery Month Act—introduced by U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-MD, along with fellow Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force Co-Chairs Ann McLane Kuster, D-NH, Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA—to provide consistent funding for National Recovery Month programming. Read more here.

We were proud to support Rep. Alma S. Adams, Rep. Lauren Underwood, and Sen. Cory Booker as an original cosponsor of the Black Maternal Health Week Resolution. Learn more here.

According to research published in JAMA Psychiatry in January, a schizophrenia diagnosis is the second largest predictor of mortality from COVID-19, after age. This alarming finding means that we must prioritize people with severe mental illness for COVID-19 vaccination. The Kennedy Forum joined other major mental health organizations in a statement urging the Biden-Harris Administration to give immediate attention to developing and implementing a strategy for vaccinating people with severe mental illness. Read it here

Parity progress! Illinois’ HB2595 passed the IL House 114-0. This bill will ensure equitable insurance coverage of mental health and addiction care by requiring that all health plans in Illinois follow generally accepted standards of mental health care (best practices agreed upon by clinical experts) when making medical necessity determinations and use medical necessity criteria/guidelines reflecting these standards. The Kennedy Forum and The Kennedy Forum Illinois advocated for HB2595 as part of a new statewide “Health is Health” coalition. Read the press release here.

As part of the Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2, The Kennedy Forum is eager to work with the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure that congressional intent of the 42 CFR Part 2 provisions of the CARES Act is reflected in the final rule. Learn more here.

The Kennedy Forum is a proud sponsor of California’s AB 988, also known as The Miles Hall Lifeline Act, which would facilitate the new nationwide 988 Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Hotline created last year by the Federal Communications Commission and Congress. AB 988 passed out of the CA Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee on Wednesday with a 10-0 vote amid opposition from telecommunications and cable industries. The bill has now passed out of all policy committees in the Assembly and has 29 coauthors, making up 24% of the state’s legislature. Next, AB 988 will head to the Assembly Appropriations Committee where it will be heard over the next couple of weeks. To show support for AB 988, sign the petition here.

Campaigns & Resources

Our latest round of Don’t Deny Me campaign posts for partner organizations addressed Stress Awareness Month and Alcohol Awareness Month. See sample posts here and here.

This month, The Kennedy Forum and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released “The Health Insurance Appeals Guide: A Consumer Guide for Filing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder (MH/SUD) Appeals.” The Guide’s eight sections include general background and terminology pertaining to health insurance plans; detailed overviews of the clinical and administrative appeals processes; information about the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Federal Parity Law); best practices for filing an appeal letter; and frequently asked questions. Learn more here.

Upcoming Events

Launch of the Clinton Foundation’s “Bridging Faith and Science to Combat the Overdose Crisis” Series
May 4, 2021
Our friends at the Clinton Foundation are launching a new digital series to bring leaders from faith and science together to take action on addiction and overdoses in the U.S. The series launch will feature CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher. The discussion will focus on cultural, racial and ethnic disparities regarding the addiction and overdose crisis. 

Webinar Series: Prioritizing Employee Mental Health Care & Internal Supports
(Part 3) May 13, 2021
It’s not too late to sign up for our webinar series, “Prioritizing Employee Mental Health Care & Internal Supports.” Registrants will receive links to all 3 recorded sessions. Use promo code WORKPLACE at checkout to receive $25 off the registration fee. See full description and register here.

The Haymarket Center Leadership Council
May 14, 2021
Patrick J. Kennedy will deliver an address to the Haymarket Center Leadership Council—comprised of a group of diverse leaders invested in Haymarket Center’s mission to aid people who are suffering from behavioral health disorders in their recovery.

Mental Health Awareness and Awards Celebration
May 14, 2021
Patrick J. Kennedy will join Sutter Health Kāhi Mōhala for an event focused on removing stigma, advocating for justice, and empowering communities. The event will also celebrate local heroes who have used their voice to improve mental health in Hawaii.

Mental Health Action Day
May 20, 2021
Patrick J. Kennedy and The Kennedy Forum are proud to be founding partners—along with more than 450 brands and nonprofits—in MTV Entertainment Group’s first-ever Mental Health Action Day on Thursday, May 20. The goal is to provide tangible tools that will help us all take action for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our communities. The Kennedy Forum will be connecting people with resources to fight wrongful denials of mental health and addiction care and become advocates for a better system. 

In the News

Patrick J. Kennedy spoke to Boston 25 News’ Scott McDonnel about rising rates of overdoses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the interview here.

East County Today recently covered the advancement of AB 988 in California. The Kennedy Forum—in partnership with the Steinberg Institute, Contra Costa County, NAMI of Contra Costa County, and the Miles Hall Foundation—sponsored the bill. Read the article here.  

Forbes helped to launch MTV’s Mental Health Action Day (Thursday, May 20) and featured a quote from Patrick J. Kennedy. “Through advocacy, policy, education and partnership, The Kennedy Forum stands ready to make a difference. On Mental Health Action Day, let’s start a new conversation in this country—one that shines a spotlight on self-care, compassion for others, and better access to quality, evidence-based treatment that puts people on the path to recovery.” Read the article here.


This month, Amy Kennedy and Patrick J. Kennedy hosted a discussion with Congresswoman Madeleine Dean and her son Harry Cunnane about their new book, “Under One Roof,” which addresses the impact of addiction/recovery on family. Watch the virtual event here.  

The Kennedy Forum—in partnership with Discovery Institute and The Voices Project—sponsored a virtual town hall and discussion featuring Patrick J. Kennedy titled, “Addiction & Mental Health As The Nation Moves Toward Recovery from COVID-19” on Wednesday, April 14. Watch the event here.