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Patrick J. Kennedy Updates & Activities

This month, the CEO Huddle, a collaboration of leaders from 15 of the nation’s leading mental health groups, including Patrick J. Kennedy, published a roadmap to guide the mental health crisis response mandated by the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020. The plan, A Consensus Approach and Recommendations for the Creation of a Comprehensive Crisis Response System, offers federal and state policymakers a tried-and-tested, evidence-based toolkit for implementing a full continuum of mental health and substance use care in conjunction with the federally mandated 988 crisis hotline for mental health emergencies, which will be operational in July 2022. More below.


The latest episode of Patrick's podcast with Marjorie Morrison, "Future of Mental Health," is now available.


Policy Pulse  

Patrick and The Kennedy Forum applauded House passage of the Build Back Better bill and urged the Senate to follow suit. The bill authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor to assess civil monetary penalties for parity violations, a critical tool for holding insurers accountable for equal coverage of mental health and addiction treatment, and something The Kennedy Forum has advocated for over many years. If the bill passes as is, new parity requirements could increase access to critical care for millions. 

This month, data from the CDC showed that overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 within a 12-month period for the first time ever. Amid the ongoing crisis, The Kennedy Forum continues to advocate for urgently needed policy changes that can improve access to treatment, including ending the discriminatory X-waiver; requiring health plans to use the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) treatment criteria; and prohibiting prior authorization (the “fail first” method) for medication-assisted treatment.

Campaigns & Resources  


The Kennedy Forum's latest round of Don’t Deny Me campaign posts for partner organizations addressed National Stress Awareness Day and recent data from SAMHSA about Americans living with substance use disorder. See sample posts here and here
Patrick and The Kennedy Forum recently joined “Sound the Alarm for Kids,” a campaign spearheaded by Children’s Hospital Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that is committed to raising awareness about the mental health emergency among children and adolescents. Efforts focus on empowering people to urge Congress to take immediate action by funding treatment and emergency, preventative, and wraparound services for youth mental health challenges. More info and resources here.

“A Consensus Approach and Recommendations for the Creation of a Comprehensive Crisis Response System,” the new plan released by the CEO Huddle, provides much-needed guidance for building the continuum of care we need for a functioning 988 crisis response system for mental health emergencies. Without a systems approach to transformation, simply implementing a new number to call will have little impact on those in need. Seven critical pillars must drive all efforts in order to succeed. Read and/or download the plan here.

This month, Psych Hub released three new educational videos on alcohol use disorder, anger management, and trauma.

Partner Spotlight

This month, Kristina Saffran of Equip shared important insights regarding social media contributing to a growing number of men and women struggling with body-image challenges. “A young woman I mentor recently showed me her Instagram feed: Half includes people she met in treatment who are actively struggling to get well, and the other half is filled with diet influencers suggested to her by the algorithm or school friends who’ve manipulated their photos using beautification editing tools. During the pandemic, she told me she was spending up to 10 hours a day on Instagram, which would send her into daily spirals of self-loathing and food restriction.” Read Kristina’s powerful essay in Fast Company here.

Pear Therapeutics recently announced that they received Breakthrough Device Designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their reSET-A prescription digital therapeutic candidate designed for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Read more here


In November, Patrick shined a spotlight on an important announcement about SAINT, a rapid-acting, non-invasive neurostimulation technology designed to treat major depressive disorder that was just awarded Breakthrough Device Designation by the FDA. As Patrick noted, “We’ve made great strides in treating diabetes and heart disease, but the same can’t be said for illnesses of the brain, like major depression, which affects 17.3 million American adults. SAINT holds promise for so many, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.” The technology will also pave the way for effective treatment in emergency rooms, where acute care options are desperately needed for people who may have attempted suicide or have suicidal ideation. Watch CBS News coverage here. Learn more about SAINT and its parent company, Magnus Medical, here.


Equity Focus

A recent Kennedy-Satcher Center for Mental Health Equity (KSCMHE) Symposium panelist, Dr. Pierluigi Mancini, shared insights with #CrisisTalk about 988 and language barriers.” Read the article here.

KSCMHE is hiring! The new Program Manager will support a number of exciting new initiatives in 2022, in collaboration with the KSCMHE Director and staff. They will also liaise regularly with academic, agency, and community partners. Responsibilities include assisting with the development of KSCMHE content (e.g., academic white papers, op-eds, policy briefs), webinar/event design and production, and proposals/fundraising efforts. If you are passionate about advancing mental health equity, consider applying or sharing with your contacts. See full description here.

Education Focus

Amy Kennedy, Educator Director of The Kennedy Forum, recently joined Delaware Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long; Dr. Vilicia Cade, CEO & Superintendent of the Capital School District; and Duncan Young, CEO of Effective School Solutions, to discuss school-based mental health and the resources educators need to make a difference. Watch here.

ICYMI: The U.S. Department of Education’s Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health resource provides information and resources to enhance promotion of mental health and social and emotional well-being among children and students. This resource highlights seven key challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support across early childhood, K–12 schools, and higher education settings, and presents seven corresponding recommendations. It also includes many real-world examples of how the recommendations are being put into action by schools, communities, and states across the country. 

In light of the challenges children and youth have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Academies has developed a suite of tools—available online in both English and Spanish—to help children and youth manage feelings of stress, anxiety, and sadness. The tools include a series of graphic-novel style PDFs and videos that were created to teach skills that can help children and youth cope with some of the challenges associated with the pandemic.

Coalition Building

The Kennedy Forum partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to host REIMAGINE: A Week of Action to Reimagine Our National Response to People in Crisis, which explored the impact of our current response to crises and provided participants with opportunities to advocate for change. During special virtual events November 16-18, speakers with first-hand experience dealing with our current response to mental health and suicidal crises engaged attendees in conversations about equity and social justice, public safety and first responders, and youth and young adults. Learn more here.


In the News  

Patrick spoke to The Daily Beast about the ongoing opioid crisis amid the CDC's latest overdose data. “Access to treatment is still being subjected to too many non-quantitative treatment limits, pre-authorization, concurrent review, retroactive review—people have been kicked out of treatment too early." Read the article here.

Amy Kennedy spoke to 47 ABC about the youth mental health crisis. “The big concern that we’ve seen is a shortage in emergency room hospital beds and that’s not just the COVID patients, it’s young people in emergency rooms with suicidal ideation.” Read the article (with video) here.

Mental Health Weekly covered The Kennedy Forum's recent webinar "School-Based Mental Health: A National Priority." Read the article here.


On November 12th, Amy Kennedy hosted “School-Based Mental Health: A National Priority,” featuring Katherine Neas, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education; Harry “Doc” Ervin, Superintendent, San Bernardino City Unified School District; Mai Xi Lee, Social Emotional Learning Director, Sacramento City Unified School District; and Thomas Scarice, Superintendent for Westport Public Schools. The event addressed the impact of COVID on youth mental health, the need for increased mental health literacy and social-emotional learning in school curricula, and utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Watch it here

On November 16th, The Kennedy Forum Illinois, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and Austen Riggs presented “Insurance Claims: Empowering your clients for coverage.” Clinicians learned about “letters of medical necessity” and other critical tools in the fight for equal insurance coverage of MH/SUD treatment. Watch it here

On November 14th, Patrick joined the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Healing Arts Symposium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art—the final event in a series of 2021 global city activations promoting the arts’ vital role in physical, mental, and social health. Watch it here.

"The Future of Mental Health," Patrick's podcast with Psych Hub CEO Marjorie Morrison, released a new episode with Kristen Dunphy, creator of Showtime series Wakefield. Listen and subscribe on all major podcast platforms. 

Upcoming Events

December 1, 2021
Patrick will join OneFifteen CEO Marti Taylor and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. Chief Science Officer Lynne Zydowsky for a panel discussion on mental health and addiction

Forbes Virtual Healthcare Summit: Breakthrough Solutions for a New Decade
December 2, 2021
Patrick will participate in a featured panel, "Building Better Brain Health...and Reducing the Stigma," with Dr. Oz and Headspace Health CEO Russell Glass at the 10th Annual Forbes Healthcare Summit. The Summit will bring together leaders in healthcare, medicine, science, and business to discuss the accelerating pace of innovation and the bright outlook for breakthroughs and new models.

December 6, 2021 
Patrick will join OneFifteen CEO Marti Taylor and Chief Medical Officer Natalie Lesser to address audiences from Verily Health Platforms, Onduo, and OneFifteen.

December 6, 2021
The Alexandria Summit - Duke-Margolis Healthcare Policy Forum will bring together a diverse group of visionary leaders within the health care community to ignite new ideas and explore innovative approaches to transforming the health care system and improving patient outcomes. Patrick will participate in a panel on "Combating the Opioid Crisis."

December 8, 2021
Patrick will deliver a keynote address, "Care Integration, A Primary-Behavioral-Substace Use Disorder Model," as part of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers' National Addiction Leadership Conference.

December 14, 2021
The Reagan Udall Foundation of the FDA will be presenting Patrick with the Advocacy/Policy Award, which recognizes significant policy and advocacy achievements that advance regulatory science and have made direct impact on the public. 

March 24-26, 2022
Join health care professionals from around the world for this unique virtual opportunity to enhance knowledge and improve patient outcomes. U.S.-based and international experts will discuss the latest advances in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of psychiatric illnesses, debate controversies in the field, and share clinical knowledge. Patrick's featured keynote: "The Pursuit of Mental Health Equity," will air March 24th at 10am ET.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Feel free to reach out if you’d like to connect about any of our activities.
Kara Kukfa 
Chief of Staff 
Patrick J. Kennedy
The Kennedy Forum | 14 Central Avenue, PO Box 319 | Island Heights, NJ 08732