The Kennedy Forum Announces Nationwide Campaign to Ensure Equity in Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coverage | The Kennedy Forum

The Kennedy Forum Announces Nationwide Campaign to Ensure Equity in Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coverage
May 8, 2024

Sixteen years after MHPAEA, enforcement and implementation must be strengthened.


Washington, DC (May 8, 2024) — Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum, a national mental health nonprofit, announced that the organization is working with partner networks to launch a public awareness campaign supporting the Biden Administration’s efforts to finalize rulemaking for the Federal Parity law, which would critically strengthen implementation of the law and ultimately advance access to mental health and substance use care.

Portions of the insurance industry have expressed resistance to the proposed parity rulemaking with arguments that are misleading or incomplete. For instance, representatives often cite the lack of available workforce as a central problem. A key driver of that issue is consistently lower reimbursement rates that insurers pay for behavioral health professionals vs. rates for medical/surgical professionals with comparable education and training. This disparity has been well documented, most recently in the 2024 RTI International report, Behavioral Health Parity – Pervasive Disparities in Access to In-Network Care Continue, created with support from the Bowman Family Foundation. Without these reimbursement disparities, the mental health and substance use workforce would likely be much larger, because people would be more fairly compensated.

The campaign is part of the Alignment for Progress Movement, a broad-based community engagement effort to align the mental health and substance use community and adjacent actors—providers, payers, government, and advocates—around a shared set of goals: 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, all by 2033.

A large part of the movement will be to catalyze action around the organization’s 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.

“The time to act is now,” said Rebecca Bagley, President and CEO. “We are at a tipping point for mental health and substance use care, and we must support the rulemaking effort to bring meaningful enforcement to the Federal Parity law.”

“We are at an exciting moment in time when the work of advocates and the will of the nation are aligning,” said Kennedy. “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 the proposed rule will bring impactful change to the spirit of the original law, ensuring finally, some 16 years after passage, that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act fulfills its purpose for those who need care.”


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.

To learn more about The Kennedy Forum, please visit