BEHAVIORAL HEALTHCARE, October 10, 2013
by Ron Manderscheid, PhD
NOTE: October 23rd is the date on which the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s 1963 Community Mental Health Act will be celebrated in Boston. That Act has cast a long shadow over the past half-century. Most of our successes in the mental health and substance use fields have been due to President Kennedy’s foresight. Major failures–Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, and Navy Yard–don’t mean that we should do less, but rather more. We from NACBHDD and Johns Hopkins salute President Kennedy, his nephew, former-Representative Patrick Kennedy, and the entire Kennedy family on this historic occasion.
We have accumulated fifty years of learnings since President Kennedy’s 1963 Community Mental Health Act which have prepared us for President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Two behavioral health bookends define the past half century. They are President John Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act of 1963 (CMHA) and President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). These two Acts are very similar in key respects: badly needed when enacted; basically beneficial for behavioral health; broadly promising for the future. Yet, these two monumental Acts also occurred in very different eras. The early 1960s were a period of exceptional growth and promise: people believed that everything was getting better! By contrast, the early 2010s are a period of much doubt and cut back: many people are fearful of the future! Because of these similarities and differences, we must learn from our 50-year response to the CMHA in order to help us plan effectively for the coming ACA era.