The Kennedy Forum Announces Nathaniel Z. Counts, JD, as Chief Policy Officer | The Kennedy Forum

The Kennedy Forum Announces Nathaniel Z. Counts, JD, as Chief Policy Officer
March 20, 2024

Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2024) — The Kennedy Forum, a national mental health and substance use disorder nonprofit, announced today that Nathaniel Z. Counts, JD has been named Chief Policy Officer. Counts will lead The Kennedy Forum’s public policy agenda which aims to ensure that all individuals have access to the treatment, services, and insurance coverage that meets their needs and the supports necessary to promote prevention, recovery, and mental well-being.

A key objective of Counts’ role will be leading the mental health and substance use care community in the achievement of the Alignment for Progress movement goal, 90/90/90 by 2033, that the organization launched in October 2023: 90% of individuals are screened for mental health or substance use disorders, 90% receive the evidence-based services and supports they need, and 90% of those treated can manage their symptoms and achieve recovery.  He will also oversee the ongoing development and advancement of the National Strategy on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. This online tool is a cross-cutting federal policy guide encompassing more than 220 recommendations being utilized by government, the business community, nonprofit advocates, payers, providers, and consumers to learn about and then advocate for the transformation of the United States’ mental health and substance use disorder systems of care.

“Nathaniel brings a wealth of relevant experience to the vital policy work of The Kennedy Forum,” said Rebecca O. Bagley, President and CEO. “We are at a tipping point for mental health and substance use care, and we must capitalize on The Kennedy Forum’s 10 years of strong policy work to achieve tangible results: creating a movement to meet the 90/90/90 by 2033 goals and ensuring the National Strategy is the guiding set of principles to get there.”

“We are at an exciting moment in time where the work of advocates and the will of the nation are aligning,” said former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum. “We see government, nonprofit, and corporate entities focused on these issues in an unprecedented way, and we must not miss this opportunity for change—we’re confident that Nathaniel will bring the organization and the movement to the next level.”

Counts joins the Kennedy Forum from his role as the Senior Policy Advisor for Mental Health to the Commissioner of Health for the City of New York, where he advised on innovative financing, policy, and research strategies for achieving the city’s mental health goals. Previously, he was the Senior Vice President of Behavioral Health Innovation for Mental Health America (MHA), the nation’s leading community-based mental health advocacy organization.

Counts is a sought-after advisor on mental health policy issues, having served on a range of national committees and in roles such as expert member on the Forum for Promoting Children’s Wellbeing at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and Visiting Scholar with the Outreach & Education Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. His thought leadership and research have been published in journals such as JAMA Pediatrics, Lancet Psychiatry, and Nature Mental Health, and he has presented at annual conferences for societies such as AcademyHealth and the American Society of Health Economists. He received his JD cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was a Student Fellow at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, and his BA in biology from Johns Hopkins.

About The Kennedy Forum

Since 2013, The Kennedy Forum (TKF) has been leading a national effort to transform the way mental health and substance use disorder are treated in our healthcare system. Going into 2024, we have set our strategic focus on shepherding an inclusive movement that will ensure every person in the United States has access to the mental health and substance use treatment services and supports they need. Founded by Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, who led a coalition of diverse stakeholders to pass the bipartisan Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, TKF has leveraged our unique role to coalesce a growing set of partners to advance the next generation of mental health and substance use disorder policy, including expanding insurance coverage, increasing access to evidence-based treatment, and improving health outcomes.

To demonstrate the breadth and depth of this systems change movement, TKF amplifies organizations’ efforts, inviting organizations to join the Alignment for Progress (A4P) by making a commitment to the movement. Building a strong coalition helps further develop the A4P agenda and guides TKF in planning a series of issue-based convenings to drive the movement forward. TKF’s goal is to bring closer the future where mental illness and substance use disorder are prevented when possible and, when not, treated effectively and equally for all patients. We see mental health as essential health.