Policymakers, Advocates, Philanthropists Present Roadmap for Change Amid U.S. Mental Health Crisis | The Kennedy Forum

Policymakers, Advocates, Philanthropists Present Roadmap for Change Amid U.S. Mental Health Crisis
February 6, 2020

Washington, D.C., February 6, 2020 – U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, U.S. Rep. David Trone, former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, and former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith will join fellow policymakers, health care professionals, and advocates this morning to shine a spotlight on mental health and addiction in the Russell Senate Office Building’s Kennedy Caucus Room.

Hosted by The Kennedy Forum, Agenda for Change: Unite. Connect. Act. will explore the current state of mental health and addiction in the United States, promoting specific actions needed in policy, philanthropy, employment, and research.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in five U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018, and one in 14 people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder that same year. Overdose death rates, which fell modestly in 2018, continue to outnumber deaths from motor vehicle accidents and are still rising for fentanyl, cocaine, and psychostimulants like methamphetamine. While U.S. life expectancy is no longer decreasing as in prior years, it is still lower than its peak in 2014—and lower than 10 peer nations, despite the U.S. spending far more per capita on health care. Speakers will call on leaders to increase access to lifesaving measures such as affordable mental health and addiction care, preventive care, brain research funding, and more.

“As a nation, there are tangible steps we can take right now to save more lives,” said Rep. Kennedy, Mental Health for US co-chair and founder of The Kennedy Forum. “This is about equality for those with mental health and addiction challenges. We must act now to prioritize measures and resources that truly address these systemic problems and create meaningful, lasting change.”

In that spirit, the event will highlight several new reports, initiatives, and resources that will be critical for defining next steps.

Andy Slavitt, board chair of United States of Care and former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will address recent data finding huge out-of-network utilization disparities between mental health/addiction and medical/surgical care for inpatient facilities, outpatient facilities, and office visits.

John Madigan, senior vice president of public policy at American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Sen. Smith, and Daniel Gillison, incoming CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), will discuss Mental Health for US, a 90-member nonpartisan, educational coalition aiming to elevate mental health and addiction in policy conversations during the 2020 election cycle.

Joe Pyle, MA, president of The Scattergood Foundation, will moderate a panel discussion profiling powerful new tools to drive social change, including “Health in Mind,” a guide from the Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP) at the University of Pennsylvania. The guide outlines philanthropic recommendations for aligning financial investments with the needs of those with mental health and addiction challenges.

“Mental health conditions and substance use disorders (SUDs) affect thousands of individuals and families nationwide and are tightly linked to other social impact areas, including homelessness, incarceration, education, and foster care. In our latest guide, ‘Health in Mind,’ we show how donors can help,” said Katherina Rosqueta, founding executive director of CHIP at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice. “There are a range of philanthropic approaches that can enable these individuals, their families, and communities to thrive.”

The panel will also explore “Healing the Nation,” a new report from Well Being Trust that outlines a framework for federal policymakers and pinpoints specific recommendations to support prevention, treatment, and recovery – an update to The Kennedy Forum’s 2017 policy guide for the 115th Congress.

“It’s beyond time for a new approach to ensure mental health and well-being for all. There are many comprehensive and integrated approaches to care, which have been proven to be better for people, improve health, and save money. We must have an agenda that guides us—one that calls to put federal resources behind these policies and programs to bring them to scale—so no one suffers needlessly,” said Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD, chief strategy officer at Well Being Trust.

Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchasing Organizations, and Brandon Staglin, president of One Mind, will also take part in the panel discussion, addressing needs in the areas of health care purchasing and brain research.

Agenda for Change: Unite. Connect. Act. is open to the public and will be livestreamed on The Kennedy Forum You Tube page. Registration is free, but a ticket is required to attend. Members of the media are invited to attend and interview speakers.


About The Kennedy Forum
Founded in 2013 by former Rep. 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 government agencies 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 around 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. www.TheKennedyForum.org