On Oct. 23–24, AFSP board member Charles Curie and Senior Director of Public Policy John Madigan attended the inaugural Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health in Boston, an initiative spearheaded by Patrick Kennedy. Curie, a former SAMHSA administrator and current member of AFSP’s Public Policy Council, served on the forum’s planning committee.
This October marked the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing of the Community Mental Health Act, the landmark bill that laid the foundation of contemporary mental health policy. President Kennedy’s call to action in 1963 was based on a belief that all Americans—including those with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and addictions—have a right to lead dignified lives and to share in the benefits of our society.
The Kennedy Forum served as a vehicle to honor JFK’s effort, celebrate the progress and identify areas that need improvement for the mental health, intellectual disability and substance use community. The event was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, SAMHSA Administrator Pam Hyde and former Senator Gordon Smith, among others.
Several key messages were taken from the Kennedy Forum, and are closely aligned with AFSP policy priorities:
- Keen oversight on how mental health parity is implemented going forward
- Making sure money is there for the services needed
- Holding government accountable in both implementation and funding
The Kennedy Forum creates a national conversation that will further remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and achieve parity by treating the brain the same way we treat the rest of the body. By joining the Kennedy Forum, AFSP is helping the mental health, intellectual disability and substance use community make continued progress.