Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy to Headline Mental Health Colorado Fundraising Gala

Sept. 29, 2020

Media Contact:
Aubree Hughes


Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy to Headline Mental Health Colorado Fundraising Gala
Kennedy Championed Landmark Legislation to End Unequal Treatment of Mental Health, Addiction

DENVER—For 37 years, Mental Health Colorado—the state’s leading mental health advocate—has hosted their annual Tribute Gala fundraiser. For the first time, the event will be virtual and former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy will give the keynote. With former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers as the host, attendees will hear stories of hope, recovery, and courage, while paying tribute to those working to achieve healthier minds across the lifespan for all Coloradans by ending shame and discrimination, improving access to housing and support, and prioritizing mental wellness for Colorado’s children.

At this year’s event, and in light of Mental Health Colorado’s recent Care Not Cuffs campaign launch, the organization will also honor Colorado communities that are working to provide a health care response to health crises and retiring the discriminatory practices of using police force to criminalize people with unmet health needs. By addressing racism and other systematic failures to promote human wellbeing from childhood onward, we can end the use of jails and prisons as the state’s largest mental health facilities.

During his 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving Rhode Island’s First Congressional District, Patrick J. Kennedy co-authored 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, such as diabetes and cancer.

“Representative Kennedy is one of our nation’s greatest champions for mental health,” said Mental Health Colorado President & CEO Vincent Atchity. “We are grateful for his willingness to share his personal story and for the strength of leadership he has brought to translate personal experience into political action. He has made mental health parity a shared expectation for all Americans.”

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.

“For far too long, those with mental health and addiction challenges have been relegated to a separate and unequal system of care in this country,” said Kennedy. “Together we must continue the fight to right that wrong and eliminate the roadblocks that prevent people from getting help. Colorado is leading the way, and I’m proud to be part of the movement.”

Shortly after leaving Congress, Kennedy founded The Kennedy Forum, a nonprofit that unites advocates, business leaders, and government agencies to advance evidence-based practices, policies, and programming in mental health and addiction. With help from The Kennedy Forum, Mental Health Colorado was able to pass House Bill 19-1269, which strengthens parity laws and holds insurers accountable for covering mental health on par with physical health. The Colorado law is considered a model parity law for other states, and several states have contacted Mental Health Colorado for advice on passing their own more substantive parity compliance bills. The Kennedy Forum remains instrumental in the implementation of the Colorado law.

Reggie Rivers, former Denver Bronco, will be interviewing Kennedy for Mental Health Colorado’s Virtual Tribute Gala on October 10 at 7 p.m. Registration is open to the public and there is no charge for admission. Register and donate at

About Mental Health Colorado:

Mental Health Colorado is the state’s leading advocate in promoting mental wellness, ending shame and discrimination, and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use care. Mental Health Colorado is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and an affiliate of Mental Health America.



Patrick Kennedy Headshot