Thresholds and Illinois Advocates Attend Launch of Kennedy Forum in Boston

Kennedy Forum commemorates 50th anniversary of President
John F. Kennedy’s signing of the Community Mental Health Act

October 24, 2013

Boston, MA – In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing of the Community Mental Health Act, a landmark bill that provided the framework for modern mental health policy, Former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy has launched The Kennedy Forum. The Forum is hosting an event in Boston on October 24-25, to discuss policies that affect persons with mental and behavioral health challenges.

A number of representatives from Illinois are lending their voices to the discussion, including Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug and VP of Public Policy & Advocacy Heather O’Donnell. Also representing Illinois are Dr. Lorrie Rickman Jones from Division of Mental Health (DMH) of the Illinois Department of Human Services, Peter O’Brien and Mark Mroz from MADO Healthcare Centers, Teresa Gerate from Neumann Family Services, John Mayes and Ruth McMahon from Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, and Eileen Durkin from Community Counseling Centers of Chicago. O’Brien, Mroz, and Gerate also represented Be Well Partners in Health. As Illinois launches Medicaid Expansion, the ACA health insurance exchange, and a shift to Medicaid managed care, the national forum will allow leaders to share ideas and best practices that they can bring home to improve policies and systems throughout the country.

The Kennedy Forum conference’s diverse offerings will highlight topics that are critical for progressive mental and behavioral healthcare, including research, prevention, and early intervention; community-based approaches; health care integration; and measuring progress. The conference will close with a plenary session to set an agenda that advances President Kennedy’s vision for community mental health.

Notable participants in this week’s events include Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States; Paul Reickhoff, Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; former Minnesota Congressman Jim Ramstad; Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation; Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball; Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears Wide Receiver and mental health advocate; and Gordon Smith, former Oregon Senator and President of the National Association of Broadcasters. Groups taking part include the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the National Council, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), Legal Action Center, Health Law Advocates, Mental Health America, The Arc, and more.

“There is a great need for Americans to engage in a national conversation that drives action to help us remove the stigma surrounding mental illness,” said Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds. “And Thresholds applauds the launch of the Kennedy Forum, which aims to address just that. Mr. Kennedy’s advocacy work on behalf of persons with mental illness is bringing together providers like Thresholds, consumers, advocates, and policy-makers to ensure that mental health policy keeps pace with best practices. We look forward to continuing to work with The Kennedy Forum on mental health advocacy in the future.”

“We need a national conversation on mental health that will allow us to finally remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and to once-and-for-all achieve parity by treating the brain the same way we treat the rest of the body,” said Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy in a statement about the formation of The Kennedy Forum. “I look forward to bringing together the brightest minds and boldest voices in the mental health, substance use, and intellectual disability community for this annual event.”

As a member of Congress, Patrick Kennedy was instrumental in the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act, which brought mental health more firmly under the coverage of insurance providers. The Kennedy Forum will return to Chicago to hold a future event.

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About Thresholds: Established in 1959, Thresholds provides healthcare, housing, and hope for thousands of persons with mental illness in Illinois. Through health care, employment, advocacy, and housing, Thresholds assists and inspires people with mental illness to reclaim their lives.

Media Contact:

Emily Moen – 773-572-5172 (office), 715-308-1951 (cell),

Dave Bayless – 312-533-0059,

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