The Kennedy Forum Illinois Urges Comprehensive Mental Health and Addiction Parity in Illinois
September 1, 2015

Contact: Kelly O’Brien

The Kennedy Forum in Illinois is working to end stigma and discrimination against persons with mental health and addiction disorders in attitudes and practice. A key barrier to full equity is the ability to access care and treatment on par with other physical health conditions. For this reason

The Kennedy Forum supports full implementation and application of state and federal mental health and addiction parity laws, for all individuals regardless of income, employer, or locality.

All families have a right to needed behavioral health and addiction services and treatments, subject to the same terms and conditions as care and treatment for any other condition, without regard to diagnosis, severity, or cause. Patients should receive care based on the best medical evidence.

Public opinion research commissioned by The Kennedy Forum Illinois this year and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies revealed that 62{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c} of Illinoisans believe physical health is treated with “more importance” than mental health in the current healthcare system in Illinois. And confusion exists over whether or not current law provides parity of coverage for mental health benefits. When asked if current law provides parity coverage, 64{c48ccdf3c73afb47c94c61fa7aae86e62bfbb2e57db984400d0c5994c9d92c5c} said they either did know or that it does not. Consumer education is needed.

Applying parity for mental health and addiction to all populations, including those insured by Medicaid, Medicare and commercial insurance, is needed and cost effective. The real cost lies in not treating behavioral health disorders—costs incurred in other areas of the state budget such as corrections, education, child welfare, and in indirect costs to employers, including excess turnover, lost productivity, absenteeism and disability.

For more information about parity in Illinois, including how Illinois compares to other states, visit


In Illinois, The Kennedy Forum is led by a diverse Leadership Council of civic, business, philanthropic, faith and community leaders who have come together to end stigma against mental health and substance use disorders in attitudes and practice. We envision a future where all persons are treated with dignity and receive the person-centered mental and physical care and support they need to thrive and achieve their goals; with a health system that fully recognizes that the brain is part of the body.

* Anne Burke and Kathryn Zenhoff are members of The Kennedy Forum Leadership Council, however, they do not participate on policy matters or endorse positions on policy issues.