Los Angeles Event Unites Advocates, Policymakers, StudentsinUrging 2020 Presidential Candidates to Address Mental Health and Addiction

January 13 ,2020

Los Angeles – Tonight, Mental Health for US is hosting the Unite for Change Forum: California featuring NBC News’ Kate Snow, actress, singer-songwriter, and mental health advocate Kiana Ledé, and former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy. The event, taking place at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Bovard Auditorium, will unite national policymakers, students, and experts to put a spotlight on mental health and addiction recovery, policy, and reform. The event, hosted by the 90-member Mental Health for US initiative, the Institute for Addiction Science at USC, and 19 California-based organizations, is a partnership effort to elevate mental health and addiction in policy conversations during the 2020 presidential election cycle. Advocates and policy experts will discuss the state of these issues in California, a state hit especially hard by challenges to accessing mental health and addiction care. “In California and nationwide, we are in the midst of a mental health crisis—as evidenced by spikes in suicide rates, particularly in young adults, and historically high rates of overdose deaths. The impact is compounded by severe mental health workforce shortages that make receiving adequate care difficult, if not impossible, for millions of people,” said Rep. Kennedy, Mental Health for US co-chair and founder of The Kennedy Forum. “Candidates and policymakers must make eliminating barriers to mental health and addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery supports a top priority.”Kate Snow, Emmy Award-winning anchor of “NBC Nightly News” Sunday edition and NBC Senior National Correspondent, will moderate a discussion on improving state and national mental health and addiction policy outcomes with experts from the medical, academic, and legal fields. The panel will feature Norm Ornstein, political scientist, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and founder of the Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation; USC professor Ricky Bluthenthal; and Elyn Saks, USC Gould School of Law professor, author of The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, and person living with schizophrenia. Steven Siegel, M.D., Ph.D., Franz Alexander Chair in Psychiatry, chair of psychiatry and behavioral health, and professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC will emcee the event.

The forum will also feature conversations and performances emphasizing empowerment and creating supportive environments for those with lived experience. Kiana Ledé, actress and singer-songwriter who starred in MTV’s “Scream” and Netflix’s “All About the Washingtons,”will join the event to share the experiences that led to her powerful EP, “Myself.”Ledé, who released her debut album last year, will perform her critically acclaimed single, “Heavy.”Advocates will highlight programs that support students along the road to recovery and will discuss how universities and communities can replicate these programs throughout the country. “With sizable gaps in income and behavioral health equity, California faces problems that in many ways mirror what is happening in states across the nation,” said Adam Leventhal, Ph.D., the founding director of the Institute for Addiction Science at USC and professor at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. “It’s important for us to highlight addiction and mental health research to policymakers and candidates to truly have a scalable and lasting impact.” The Unite for Change Forum: California is the third and final in a series of Mental Health for US grassroots events aimed at getting 2020 presidential candidates on the record about their plans for mental health and addiction. Leading candidates have been invited to participate in the forum, but none have agreed to participate at this time. The event will be open to the media and livestreamed on the Mental Health for US Facebook page. Interviews are available with all speakers.


What: Mental Health for US Unite for Change Forum: California

Where: Bovard Auditorium at the University of Southern California, 3551 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

When: Monday, January 13, 2020, 5:30-7:30 pm PST

Media Registration: 3:30 pm PST
Contact: Sarah Sonies, sarah.sonies@curastrategies.com
Phone: 703-439-0397


  • Kate Snow, Anchor, “NBC Nightly News” Sunday edition and NBC Senior National Correspondent
  • Kiana Ledé, actress, singer-songwriter, and mental health advocate
  • Former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy
  • National and local policymakers and advocates

Tickets: www.usc.edu/uniteforchange

Mental Health for US is a nonpartisan, educational initiative focused on elevating mental health and addiction to national policy conversations by empowering grassroots advocates and improving candidate and policymaker health literacy. TheMental Health for US coalition is comprised of more than 90 stakeholder groups from around the country dedicated to uniting the American people to make systemic, long-term change with civic engagement tools and resources.To learn more and get involved, please visit mentalhealthforus.net.

The Institute for Addiction Science (IAS) at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) cultivates new addiction science collaborations that cross disciplines and produce innovative, high-impact, and adaptable scientific evidence to disseminate to practitioners, policymakers, and the general public. IAS is comprised of 55 faculty members across seven schools and 16 departments at USC, creating a unique environment to unify and transform the field of addiction science to ultimately improve the lives of those touched by addiction. If you would like to learn more, please contact the IAS Director of Operations, Kristin Dahlquist atkdahlqui@usc.edu.

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