Jackson Jr.'s office: Treatment is for 'mood disorder'

July 11, 2012 9:21:53 PM PDT
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s physician says the congressman is being treated for a mood disorder at a residential treatment facility, according to Jackson Jr.'s office.

Additionally, Jackson Jr.'s office told ABC7 that rumors that Jackson Jr. was receiving treatment for alcohol or substance abuse were "not true".

ABC7's Cheryl Burton spoke with Ald. Sandi Jackson Wednesday evening. Sandi Jackson says she does not want to discuss the location where her husband is being treated because she wants to protect the identity of the other patients.

Aside from denying the rumors about alcohol or substance abuse treatment, Sandi Jackson wanted to pass along this message: "I am grateful for the many prayers and well wishes shared on Jesse's behalf. Please continue to keep our family in your prayers."

Sandi Jackson also said Wednesday she is in constant contact with her husband's doctors.

Jackson Jr.'s office sent a statement around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, including information which they say is from his physician:

"Information regarding the Congressman's treatment is protected by federal law under the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPPA"). The name of the attending physician and treatment center will not be disclosed in order to protect his continuing privacy. His physician makes the following statement:

"The Congressman is receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder. He is responding positively to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery."

Even with these details, it remains unclear exactly what type of mood disorder Rep. Jackson Jr. is dealing with.

"There are a number of mood disorders; these include major depression, bipolar disorder, mood disorders or depressive disorders due to medical conditions," said Dr. Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "The most common are either... unipolar major depression or bipolar spectrum disorders."

Earlier Wednesday, before the statement from Jackson Jr.'s office, Democratic leaders had joined colleagues and constituents in calling for Jackson Jr. to offer a public explanation as soon as possible.

Closer Look: Few rules regarding members of Congress who miss work

Congressman Jackson Jr. started his leave on June 10, but he waited two weeks to make it public. Until Wednesday evening, little detail had been officially released as to Jackson Jr.'s condition.

The mystery surrounding Jesse Jackson Jr.'s illness could not have happened at a worse time for his father. The veteran civil rights leader is hosting the annual Rainbow PUSH coalition conference in Chicago.

For the first time in the Rainbow PUSH convention's 41 years, Rev. Jesse Jackson tried to avoid cameras and reporters. He apparently did not want to hear questions about his son. As Jackson Sr. tried to leave the Rainbow PUSH luncheon through the ballroom kitchen Wednesday afternoon, ABC7 intercepted him to ask about the non-stop rumors surrounding his son's health.

"I should not have to dignify rumors," said Rev. Jackson. "It's not fair. His medical treatment is a private matter by his doctors, his family. At the appropriate time you will hear as you should."

Meanwhile, in Washington, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer urged Jackson, who stands for re-election in November, to provide voters more detailed information.

"I think Congressman Jackson and his office and his family would be well advised to advise the constituents of his condition," Hoyer said. "He's obviously facing a health problem."

But Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi advised patience.

"Our prayers are with his family. The timing is not related to our curiosity but his healthcare needs," said Pelosi.

The congressman's wife, Alderman Sandi Jackson, told the Chicago Tribune Wednesday she was "hopeful" doctors would release details of the congressman's condition "soon". She claimed to be in constant contact with her husband's medical team.

"I'm asking the media, I'm asking the Democrats to back off of this young man," said former Illinois U.S. Senator Roland Burris.

Burris said his fellow Democrats should end their calls for Jackson to come forward and blamed the news media for trying to bring down the congressman.

"The media's driving it," said Burris. "They drove the mess with me."

The Rainbow PUSH conference continues through Saturday.

Few rules regarding members of Congress who miss work

Jackson's Jr.'s office had until Wednesday evening released little information about his condition, which reportedly requires treatment and a medical leave from Congress.

This is a prime example of how the laws Congress writes for us sometimes don't apply to the lawmakers themselves. ABC7 research found Congressman Jackson had not followed some of the past practices of members of Congress who miss work, but a spokesman for what amounts to the House's HR department says there are no written rules regarding medical leave.

Congressman Jackson has missed nearly 80 votes in the past month. Despite the absence, Jackson continues to receive his full $174,000-a-year salary. That amounts to $14,500 since his mysterious medical leave began.

When Senator Mark Kirk suffered a stroke, doctors publicly updated his condition. That has not generally been the case for Jackson.

"Nine times out of 10, the speculation is much worse than what he's actually dealing with," said Eric Herman.

Herman is a former journalist who now works in crisis communications. He says secrecy shrouding Jackson's condition does more harm than help.

"They get sickness, they get illness. They are people. There is compassion. What they don't like is being manipulated," said Herman.

On Capitol Hill, many congressmen make a point of entering the reason for missing votes into the official record.

Congressional rules don't require a doctor's note or reduced wages. They also don't say how long is too long for a representative like Jackson to be out.

"Congress does have a much more generous policy than most employees enjoy with their employer," said Jon Goldman.

Goldman is an employment law attorney who points out Congress's perks are far beyond those established by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

"They would have to provide medical documentation supporting a serious health condition before they can take a leave, and even then it's an unpaid leave," Goldman said.

Mark Allen has known Congressman Jackson since the two were kids. He is disappointed that many of Jackson's fellow Democrats are questioning his illness.

"For them, Illinois representatives, to not have his back -- give the man some peace. I'm very disturbed by this," said Allen.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's staff said Wednesday that she had been told of Jackson's medical leave, but he did not submit a formal letter explaining it, which they say he does not have to do.

Load Comments