Statement from former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum and former member of The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ new Overdose Prevention Strategy:
October 27, 2021

Washington, D.C., October 27, 2021 –

“While the new national Overdose Prevention Strategy is certainly a step in the right direction, I urge HHS to add aggressive enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Federal Parity Act) to its Priority Areas. Most Americans rely on their health insurance coverage to access treatment for mental health and addiction challenges. Unfortunately, HHS has historically not done enough to ensure that Medicaid managed care and ACA marketplace plans under its jurisdiction are complying with the Federal Parity Act, which requires health plans to cover treatment for mental health and substance use disorders no more restrictively than treatment for illnesses of the body, such as diabetes and cancer. HHS must work closely with the U.S. Department of Labor, which is aggressively increasing parity enforcement in employer-based plans, to now end illegal coverage barriers in Medicaid managed care and marketplace plans that serve a disproportionate number of lower income individuals and people of color.

“HHS must also urgently prioritize the collection of real-time data on overdoses and other deaths of despair. At the beginning of the pandemic, our country developed a system to report daily COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths within several months. Yet, years after alarming increases in overdoses, we lack timely data, thus greatly inhibiting the public health response that is necessary to save lives.

“This is a historic occasion to set a new precedent in American health care policy: brain illnesses can be treated no differently than illness of the body. A public health crisis is a public health crisis, period. Let’s get to work.”


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 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 for the treatment of mental health and addiction. The Kennedy Forum’s “Don’t Deny Me” campaign educates consumers about their rights under the Federal Parity Law and connects them with essential appeals guidance and resources. To learn more about The Kennedy Forum, please visit

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