Take the Pledge Stand Up for Mental Health Equity and Justice
In the U.S., people with mental health challenges, including substance use and eating disorders, have been stigmatized, discriminated against, and too often confined rather than treated. Only 40 percent of those living with mental health conditions receive any treatment in a given year, as alarming epidemics of addiction and suicide destroy families and communities nationwide.
Join us in standing up for mental health equity and justice. With your support, we can end discrimination and create the system we need for change.
- Review the statement below and submit your pledge to The Kennedy Forum.
- Find contact information for your elected officials here and send them your pledge statement.
I pledge to support mental health equity and justice!
We must address our broken system by:
Improving Access to Care and Treatment
All persons with mental health conditions, including substance use disorders and eating disorders, should have timely access to affordable treatment and recovery services. This includes expanded use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and a range of support services that improve treatment outcomes. Medicaid and other insurance coverage must be retained and protected.
Ending Discrimination in Health Plan Coverage
The Federal Parity Law – which requires insurers to treat illnesses of the brain, such as depression and addiction, the same way they treat illnesses of the body, such as diabetes and cancer – must be enforced. Both public and commercial payers should raise reimbursement rates so that mental health providers are paid on par with medical providers.
Expanding Support Services and Recovery Programs
All levels of government should expand programs that include supportive housing, peer support, community integration, job and skill training, and education. Funding should be increased to community organizations that help people recover from mental illness and addiction. People in recovery should be included in developing policies and programs that support long-term recovery. Hospitals and first responders should develop formal relationships with recovery coaches and support services providers. Parent and family support systems should be identified and promoted for those whose loved ones are experiencing mental health conditions and substance use disorders.
Paying for Integrated, Collaborative Care with Accountability
Public and commercial payers should reimburse for cost-effective, integrated care that treats the body and the mind. Behavioral health and primary care treatment providers should adopt evidence-based services and measurement-based care to maximize the likelihood of recovery.
New technologies such as telemedicine, electronic medical records, digital interventions, biomarker-based interventions, and predictive modeling and data analytic tools should be utilized to better identify people in need of care, improve treatments, and track outcomes. Public and commercial payers should reimburse for tools that are backed by clinical evidence. All stakeholders should work to address a range of social, ethical, and legal issues associated with deployment of these emerging technological solutions.
Implementing Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives
The health care system should prioritize early intervention so that mental health conditions are identified and diagnosed as early as possible, rather than later in life when they are more difficult to treat. All providers should screen for mental health and substance use disorders. Education systems should address the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students and their families. Youth and young adults experiencing first episode psychosis should receive immediate treatment.
Ending the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is a national emergency demanding a FEMA-like response: collaboration between the government and private sectors, as well as for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Barriers to obtaining medication-assisted treatment (MAT) must be removed, and health plans should be required to cover all FDA-approved medications for substance use disorders on the lowest tiers in their formularies. Support services for people in recovery should be expanded. Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) should be expanded, and states should improve synchronization between PDMPs. The life-saving drug naloxone should be available in every community setting. Research and development of non-addictive pain management treatments should be prioritized.
Evidence-based suicide prevention programs should be prioritized by institutions of higher education, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, workplaces, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Improved data collection and tracking are urgently needed across systems to identify people at risk of suicide and evaluate suicide prevention efforts.
Ending the Criminalization of Mental Illness and Addiction
Our criminal justice system should not criminalize mental health and addiction conditions. We should divert people with mental health and substance use disorders away from confinement and into treatment – expanding crisis intervention team training and drug and mental health courts, and abolishing mandatory minimum sentencing. We should use evidence-based treatment such as MAT for those currently confined, and ensure treatment continuity and support services upon release. Congress should change federal law so that people with arrests or convictions for simple possession and drug use are not barred from receiving housing assistance. There should be adequate services to address the underlying causes of non-violent offenses in local communities.
Addressing Populations with Unique Needs
Direct funding should be made available to Native American tribes as they seek to combat the opioid crisis in their own communities, and Congress must empower the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire more mental health professionals and expand successful programs. The federal government, and state and local governments, should increase capacity of foster care systems overburdened by the opioid epidemic.
Growing the Workforce
To expand access to lifesaving and life-restoring care, particularly for those in rural areas, Congress should increase funding for scholarship and loan repayment programs to increase the supply of behavioral health professionals, and create additional mental health and addiction education and training initiatives to attract and maintain a diverse and culturally-competent workforce. All medical schools should include training on identifying and addressing mental health and substance use disorders.
Investing in Research
To expand critical research on how the brain works, Congress should increase appropriations to the National Institutes of Health. Public and private researchers should partner to develop new treatments. Silos in research and treatment development that artificially separate mental health from other health research must be broken down.
Don’t forget to send the pledge text to your elected officials! Find contact information here.