Kennedy Forum Mental Health “Call to Action!” “Equity in Mental Health Care.”

Feb 09, 2015 by The Kennedy Forum On Tuesday, February 3, Patrick J. Kennedy and Dr. David Satcher announced the formation of the Kennedy Center for Mental Health Policy and Research, released new polling data on how Americans see the issue today, and issued a call to action. Learn more…


Kennedy Forum Mental Health “Call to Action” Webcast…  click on this attention getting video clip for an update on this most important initiative!

The Center will focus attention on a few key areas, including:

  • Quality, with a focus on provider accountability, outcomes, and the need to set clear and achievable standards that all providers can adopt and use.

  • Innovation, with a focus on cutting-edge technology, ongoing research, and leveraging the promise of big data.

  • Equity, with a redoubling of efforts to end disparities, fully implement parity, and support justice system reforms.

  • Integration, with an emphasis on caring for the whole person, and ensuring that all Americans can get a “checkup from the neck up.”

The announcement of the Center comes as 71% of Americans are calling for “significant “ or “radical” changes in the way mental health and addiction are treated. In addition, a majority of survey respondents highlighted two key areas of focus for reform: “Improving quality of care for people with mental health conditions” and “making sure people with mental health conditions have access to the care they need regardless of where they live, their ethnicity, or their background.”


I am happy to share that we have our own “call to action” in the State of Oregon with the key legislative initiative, (click on this highlighted link) “Mental Health: Can’t we do better?”  At my local level, the Depoe Bay, Oregon City Council included mental health as a new business item in the agenda on February 3rd, which included input from the community and highly supportive discussion by the council.  As city councilor, I have been tasked to follow through with a grass roots local work group to start the conversation and begin developing ideas and solutions to improve access to mental health first aid and overall care.

Our first “grass roots” local work group meeting is scheduled for Monday February 16, 2014.  I am planning to keep the community posted on our progress in working with local, county, and state resources in meeting mental health care goals and spirit of a national “call to action.”  Teamwork and community collaboration are key to our success!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…

State of the Union in Mental Health and Addiction Live Webcast…and local initiatives…

The State of Mental Health in America Webcast…  Click highlighted text…

Kennedy Forum…State of the Union in Mental Health & Addiction…  Click on the highlighted text

“Just as President Kennedy rallied the nation to dream big and set audacious goals 50 years ago, The Kennedy Forum seeks to set a new standard for the future of health care in the United States.

Our mission is big, and the stakes are clear. We seek to unite the health care system, and rally the mental health community around a common set of principles: Fully implement the 2008 parity law, bring business leaders and government agencies together to eliminate issues of stigma, work with providers to guarantee equal access to care, ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to craft better policy, and give consumers a way to understand their rights.”



Mental Health is one of the State of Oregon’s key legislative initiatives for 2015.  League of Oregon Cities Local Focus (click this site) magazine for December 2014 is dedicated to mental health…”can’t we do better?” On the agenda for our City of Depoe Bay Council Meeting on February 3rd is Mental Health…to start this important conversation in our rural community on the Central Oregon Coast.  Communities everywhere are getting on the same page now and taking action…to find better ways to meet mental health challenges and improve services at the local level.  Following is a summary of the key issues we are addressing in our communities…

December 2014On the Cover…Mental Health: Can’t we do better?

  • It’s Time to Bend the Trend
  • Forest Grove – Mental Health Crisis Straining Police Resources
  • Wallowa County – Isolation Impedes Proper Response, Care
  • Portland and Project Respond: A 22-Year Partnership
  • Boardman – Crisis Care in a Small Community
  • Bend – Trying to Keep Pace in Deschutes County
  • Jail Diversion: Better for Cities, Better for Counties, Better for Patients
  • Mental Health Services: How We Can Do More

Please take the time to catch up on the State of Mental Health in America from the Kennedy Forum webcast.  Take a look at the Local Focus December 2014 magazine and learn more about specific challenges and opportunities for change in Oregon.  I will be reporting on the progress we are making in Depoe Bay, Oregon going forward.

Mental Health will be a high priority for me as city councilor during my 4 year term.  Our community will begin to seriously assess its needs and begin to collaborate with public private partnerships along with federal, state, and country resources to build a stronger foundation for mental health crisis treatment and referral services.  Join your neighbors in supporting a stronger Mental Health agenda for your community.  We can do better!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1…  Click on the highlighted text for my author page…

Mental Health Awareness…”So many people are trying to hide something that needs to be talked about.” Brandon Marshall, wide receiver, Chicago Bears…

An estimated 590,000 mentally ill patients a year end up in a defacto system of mental health care, including jails and prisons, the streets, and homeless shelters where suicide is a high risk. Click graphic for a larger view…
The cost of treating mental illness…click graphic to expand view…As states have cut mental health funding, many have increased spending on prisons and jails, says D.J. Jaffe, executive director of, which advocates for patients with serious mental illness.

USA Today…”The Cost of Not Caring” by Liz Szabo…click here for an in-depth report…

Brandon Marshall Foundation, team up to fight stigma of mental illness…

Brandon Marshall Foundation… click here for more…

“So many people are trying to hide something that needs to be talked about, and if it’s talked about, so many lives will be saved, says Marshall, who created the Brandon Marshall Foundation to help others with mental illness.”


It is easy to say “we need to talk about mental health awareness,” but it will take decades of talking to change our culture of denial and remove the stigma from society.  Just this week several people close to me shared stories of the risk of revealing and talking about mental health challenges.  What is very similar about these and many other stories, including my own experience, is the push back and denial connected with talking about the truth and seeking treatment.  Most mental health conditions are manageable if treated effectively…sooner than later is much better…

Younger people are at the highest risk of paying a big price for revealing a standing mental health issue of any type.  Bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress, and clinical depression are high on the list of manageable mental health problems that can kill a career, stop a great opportunity in life, or even break up a loving relationship.  The worst case scenario we want to avoid is suicide.  We survivors pay the price at all ages, especially during our wage earning and career years.  I remember well in 1965 when my first career opportunity with General Telephone & Telegraph in Redondo Beach, California, was cut short of an offer to join the company because of a mental health diagnosis connected with my honorable service in the US Navy.

It was a surprise and shock to me to be told I could not be hired because my military record (DD214) showed a coded medical and mental health status that was “worrisome.”  That year of 1965 was the first time my apparent condition and diagnosis of the symptoms related to what we now know as PTSD became a reality.  From that point forward and during my entire adult life, no one else was ever told or knew.  My US Navy vocational training and skills saved the day when finally hired by the Western Union Telegraph Company.  I was very lucky to get a job that started me off in my career and gave me confidence and hope as a young man.   Although we know much more today than we did then about moral injury and PTSD, especially with soldiers returning home from hard combat duty, nothing has changed for most people who are compelled to keep their mental health challenges and treatment a secret.  And because of the stigma, the lives of sufferers, including children and families, are at risk every day.  Change is slow, but will happen someday, long after my lifetime…

I continue to be very encouraged as more well known leaders and celebrities like, Brandon Marshall, join the cause of mental health awareness.  The first step in changing the very soul of America and attitudes around the globe regarding mental health stigma and denial is awareness.  So we must talk and write about this subject, with the passion and energy that will eventually get through to future generations.  It is with our children that we will change, and someday break the cycle of pain and denial that haunts millions of survivors of traumatic life experiences and other mental health challenges that require professional treatment and healing…

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…  Click on the highlighted text for my author page…