Statement from Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy Regarding Appointment of Dr. Rahul Gupta as ONDCP Director

The following is a statement from former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum:

“The Kennedy Forum stands ready to assist Dr. Gupta and his staff however and whenever we can. We urge Dr. Gupta to prioritize prevention at every level; facilitate Medicaid and Medicare expansion of coverage for mental health and addiction treatment—in keeping with the Affordable Care Act; push for aggressive enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Federal Parity Law) to hold insurers accountable for equal coverage of care; and take immediate steps to interdict major trafficking operations that supply deadly synthetic opioids.

“Amid these urgently needed actions, it is also critical that Dr. Gupta halt the rapid development of a new addictive industry in our nation: Big Marijuana. Increased access to today’s new potent marijuana in all forms—including those that target youth markets such as gummies and elixirs—is only adding fuel to the fire of addiction that continues to devastate American families.

“On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who supported my pursuit of the ONDCP Director position. It has been my honor and privilege to work alongside so many dedicated individuals representing every facet of public health, mental health care, and addiction recovery. Rest assured I will continue to fight every day to ensure those with mental health and substance use disorders are treated with dignity and respect, and have equal access to quality, evidence-based care.”

During his time in Congress, Patrick J. Kennedy was the lead author of the landmark Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires insurers to cover treatment for mental health and substance use disorders no more restrictively than treatment for illnesses of the body. In 2013, he founded The Kennedy Forum, a nonprofit that strives to advance evidence-based practices, policies, and programming in mental health and addiction. In 2015, Kennedy co-authored the New York Times Bestseller, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction,” which details a bold plan for the future of mental health care in America. In 2017, he was appointed to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Kennedy is also the founder of, an educational campaign that empowers consumers and providers to understand parity rights and connects them to essential appeals guidance and resources; co-founder of One Mind, an organization that pushes for greater global investment in brain research; and co-chair of the Mental Health & Suicide Prevention National Response to COVID-19, alongside NIMH Director, Dr. Josh Gordon—an initiative of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

More information:

Kennedy, NIMH Demand Urgent Action on COVID-19 Mental Health Toll
“We’re seeing suffering on a whole new, unprecedented scale. We need to bring that same sense of urgency to these deaths of despair hiding in plain sight.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy

14 Top CEOs Warn Of Looming Mental Health Crisis And Offer A Holistic ‘Roadmap To Recovery’
“Over decades, America’s mental health care system has been chronically underfunded and broken such that people with serious mental illness were more likely to be living on the streets, languishing in jails, or dying two decades prematurely in poverty rather than receiving compassionate treatment. And all that was before Covid-19 arrived.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy

Big Pot Tries to Stop Patrick Kennedy From Becoming Drug Czar
“I won’t try to get this job by not ruffling any feathers and keeping my head down and not saying anything about what I see as a true threat on the horizon. We know it’s not about this social justice issue. It’s about the money.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy warns against push to ‘legalize and commercialize’ cannabis, cites ‘plague’ of addiction
“I know addiction is a plague. I’ve seen it up close in my family. I’ve suffered in my own life. I have seen it with my friends, and I don’t think our country is really up for this trade-off in order to have a commercialized product that’s so addictive, and being able to pay the price for that down the road with all the people that will suffer from this disease.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy

Before COVID-19, U.S. life expectancy was making a slight rebound
“If we don’t address this crisis now, dependencies will become addiction, and depression will become a serious mental illness,” he said. “There’s progression in these illnesses. We can’t wait.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy

How Former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy’s Own Experience With Addiction Led Him To Become One Of Our Nation’s Most Ardent Mental Healthcare Champions
“It is possible to get better outcomes. It’s so obvious to say but not always apparent. We need to address access. So you have to make this affordable. You have to make it effective.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy

‘The mental health parity law… is still not fully enforced,’: Fmr. Representative Patrick Kennedy
“We have longer life expectancies except for the fact that our deaths of despair are actually forcing down average life expectancy for all Americans. So we have to do something. And it requires a multipronged approach.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy