Fifty years ago this month, my uncle, President John F. Kennedy, signed the Community Mental Health Act, long-considered the law that laid the foundation for modern-day mental health care. In the decades since the landmark signing of that legislation, the mental health community has made great strides. But we have much more to do to honor President Kennedy’s legacy, achieve equality, and improve care for those suffering from mental illness, intellectual disabilities and addictions.
We have a generation of service members returning home from war, including many with brain injuries. Our communities, too often, are shattered by gun violence. We must address and reverse the growing suicide epidemic in this country — which claims more than 38,000 American lives annually, and as many as 22 veterans each day. With health exchanges taking root nationwide, we must also ensure that those struggling with mental illness and addictions receive equal treatment to those with physical ailments. We can’t have 50 rules in 50 states governing how we treat these diseases.