Washington, D.C., March 2, 2022 — “Within his aptly named Unity Agenda, President Biden has laid out the bold steps our nation must take to address mental health across the lifespan. This comprehensive action plan comprised of treatment, support, and prevention components is the catalyst we need to usher in a new era of health equity—one that will save countless lives. We were pleased to see President Biden’s bipartisan agenda contains many of The Kennedy Forum’s key policy priorities, including:
“Parity in insurance coverage. Far too many families are unable to afford mental health or addiction treatment due to high out-of-pocket costs. The President’s call for equal coverage of mental health and addiction treatment in all health plans—including Medicare, TRICARE, and all of Medicaid—would represent the largest expansion of parity since the passage of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008. These efforts to modernize parity must be paired with efforts to strengthen network adequacy requirements for all health plans to ensure providers are actually available in network when and where people need them.
“Tools to address the youth mental health crisis. In addition to investing in school resources that prioritize prevention, mental health literacy, and early interventions, embedding mental health services within schools, libraries, and other community settings is the right thing to do. Now, more than ever, we must meet our young people where they are to change the trajectory of their lives and to make mental health part of our cultural fabric moving forward.
“Strategies for building a stronger workforce. The initiatives the President outlined to attract and retain mental health and addiction treatment providers are an essential part of the system we need. And integrating services into primary care settings will further expand reach and impact during a time of great need. These efforts represent a major step forward in correcting discriminatory practices of the past that relegated those with mental health and addiction challenges to a separate and unequal system of care.
“Mental health and recovery in the workplace. The President’s focus on health care workers is a step in the right direction. But all employers have a tremendous role to play in redefining wellness to finally include the brain. Providing the right internal supports, updated benefits packages that provide adequate coverage for mental health and addiction treatment, supportive employment opportunities, and innovative staff recovery networks will not only empower millions of Americans with lived experience, it will be vital to our economic recovery. Expectations have changed—it’s time for every industry in the U.S. to step up to the plate and welcome everyone back to work.
“988 crisis response. Through allocating $700 million to our new three-digit number dedicated to mental health-related crises, President Biden has demonstrated his commitment to systemic change, reducing avoidable emergency department or hospital admissions, limiting engagement with the criminal justice system, reducing homelessness, and building healthier, more resilient communities.
“By prioritizing these areas and more, we can bridge the dangerous divide between mental health and physical health, and benefit society for years to come. We applaud President Biden and his administration for shining a much-needed spotlight on the mental health crisis and we call on every member of Congress to act with great urgency.”
About Patrick J. Kennedy
Former U.S. Rep. and founder of The Kennedy Forum, Patrick J. Kennedy, was lead author of the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. He is co-chair of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19 (National Response), co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Behavioral Health Integration Task Force, and a former member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
About Amy L. Kennedy
With over 15 years of experience working in public schools, Amy Kennedy serves as education director of The Kennedy Forum where she facilitates partnerships and collaborations that emphasize evidence-based research and programming to advance youth mental health. In 2021, Amy ran for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district.
About The Kennedy Forum
Founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), The Kennedy Forum leads a national dialogue on transforming the health care system by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and policymakers around a common set of principles, including full implementation of the Federal Parity Law. Launched in celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of the landmark Community Mental Health Act, the nonprofit aims to achieve health equity by advancing evidence-based practices, policies, and programming for the treatment of mental health and addiction. The Kennedy Forum’s “Don’t Deny Me” campaign educates consumers and providers about patient rights under the Federal Parity Law and connects them with essential appeals guidance and resources. To learn more about The Kennedy Forum and donate, please visit www.thekennedyforum.org.