Senator Stabenow and Former Senator Blunt Receive Prestigious Kennedy Forum Award for Their Work to Transform Behavioral Health Services

The Senators Received The Kennedy Forum’s Inaugural Ask Not Award

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Debbie Stabenow and former Senator Roy Blunt received the inaugural Ask Not Award, which honors those who have been national leaders in advancing and improving mental health and substance use treatment. The Kennedy Forum announced the award in Boston at its Alignment for Progress Conference, which marks the 60th anniversary of President Kennedy signing the Community Mental Health Act, the 15th anniversary of the Federal Parity Act, and the 10th anniversary of the founding of The Kennedy Forum.

“Sixty years ago, President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act and today, we are fulfilling his vision of funding comprehensive community mental health services through the health care system,” said Senator Stabenow. “Our mental health care and substance use initiative is a proven success story and is transforming behavioral health treatment across the country. Thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, every state will be able to join our initiative and make sure health care above the neck is funded the same way as health care below the neck.”

Senator Stabenow has dedicated her career to ensuring Americans of all ages can receive the mental health and substance use disorder services they need. Stabenow was a key member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee during the passage of the Affordable Care Act and led the effort to expand federal parity protections for mental health and substance use disorder benefits. In one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage, Stabenow ensured that these services are defined as essential benefits in the Affordable Care Act.    

Last year, Senators Stabenow and Blunt led the passage of the transformational initiative to fully fund high-quality mental health and substance use disorder services through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, a program implemented and supported by SAMHSA. Due to the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, every state and the District of Columbia can expand behavioral health support to their residents.

These Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics are transforming community care by setting high-quality standards of care and then funding mental health and substance use disorder services as health care through Medicaid. This is the same successful structure used for federally qualified health centers.

In order to receive enhanced Medicaid funding, the clinics are required to provide crisis services that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and serve anyone who requests care for mental health or substance use disorder, regardless of their ability to pay. Other high-quality services are required as well, including outpatient mental health and substance use disorder treatment services; immediate screenings, risk assessments, and diagnoses; and care coordination including partnerships with emergency rooms, law enforcement, and veterans’ groups.

The Department of Health and Human Services found that people who receive care at these clinics had:

  • 74% reduction in hospitalization
  • 68% reduction in visits to the emergency room
  • 33% decrease in homelessness

Also, 84% of these clinics either already provide direct services on site at elementary, middle, and high schools or plan to in the future.

The Kennedy Forum seeks to set a new standard for the future of health care in the United States, just as President Kennedy rallied the nation to dream big and set audacious goals 60 years ago.  

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