He worked with his father, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, to write and pass the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which provides care to tens of millions of Americans struggling with mental health and addiction issues and basically says that illnesses of the brain should be treated the same as illnesses in the body.
Patrick Kennedy visited ABC7 Chicago to talk more about this new effort.
Patrick J. Kennedy Launches The Kennedy Forum to Unite the Mental Health Community
Honoring 50 Years of Progress Made in Mental Health from JFK's 1963 Efforts to 2013, Event will Chart a Course for Future Policy Breakthroughs for Those with Mental Illness, Addictions and Intellectual Disabilities
BOSTON - Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy formally announced the creation of The Kennedy Forum, an initiative designed to unite the community of mental health in common purpose. The inaugural events will include a gala event on October 23 at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and a full-day conference on October 24 at the Westin Copley Place. This October marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's signing of the Community Mental Health Act, the landmark bill that laid the foundation of contemporary mental health policy.
The Kennedy Forum will honor President Kennedy's leadership, celebrate the progress made in the past half-century and set a course to advocate for future breakthroughs in the policies affecting those with mental illness, intellectual disabilities and addictions. The gala event will be livestreamed and a recording of the conference will be available online at www.thekennedyforum.org. The Kennedy Forum will also convene a series of community events to take place around the country on the evening of the gala.
"I am so proud to launch The Kennedy Forum to mark the 50th anniversary of my uncle's landmark call for a bold new approach to mental health and intellectual disability policy and to unite the diverse mental health community around a common goal of achieving further progress in the next half century," said Former Congressman Kennedy. "We need a national conversation on mental health that will allow us to finally remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and to once-and-for-all achieve parity by treating the brain the same way we treat the rest of the body. I look forward to bringing together the brightest minds and boldest voices in the mental health, substance use, and intellectual disability community for this annual event."
"We face a number of mental health challenges as a nation, but also a great opportunity to take bold action. Right now, we have a generation of service members returning home from war, many of whom continue to struggle with brain injuries; we must address and reverse the growing suicide epidemic in this country; and with health exchanges taking root in all 50 states, we must ensure that those struggling with mentally illness receive equal treatment to those with physical ailments," added Kennedy.
"The community-based approach to care that President Kennedy called for 50 years ago offers the opportunity for all people to live dignified lives and to share in the American dream. And today, The Kennedy Forum presents a historic opportunity to build on this legacy," said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. "Now is the time to reclaim the 'New Frontier' in behavioral health - one built on scientific advances that promise new discoveries in brain research and on public policies that emphasize prevention, as well as treatment."
"Patrick Kennedy has spent his life bringing these issues out of the shadows and giving voice to so many who feel alone in their fight for better treatment and stronger mental health policies. As we mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's historic efforts to improve mental health policy in America, we must also look to the future," said former Congressman Jim Ramstad. "Patrick and I have a long history of working together to improve the lives of those with mental illness and those fighting addiction. In Congress, we wrote and passed the Mental Health Parity Act and I am proud to partner with him again to empower this generation of leaders through The Kennedy Forum."
The inaugural Kennedy Forum events will include an evening gala event and a full day of conference programming on October 23 and 24 respectively. The conference will feature panel discussions and breakout sessions covering a wide range of topics including: advances in mental health research and treatment; community approaches to mental and substance use disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities; employment for individuals with mental and developmental disability and productivity in the workplace; and improvements in treatment of mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities and substance use disorders from the Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Parity Act.
The Forum will feature many notable mental health advocates as partners and participants, including: the National Council, NAMI, Legal Action Center, Health Law Advocates, Mental Health America, The Arc, former Minnesota Congressman Jim Ramstad, and former Oregon Senator and President of the National Association of Broadcasters Gordon Smith. At the same time, the Kennedy Forum is working with organizations in communities across the nation to hold local events that bring as many people as possible into these important policy discussions. The Kennedy Forum will add and announce more participants and event sponsors in the weeks leading up to the event.
For more information, please visit www.thekennedyforum.org or follow @kennedyforum on Twitter.
Patrick Kennedy served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Rhode Island's First District. In Congress he championed dozens of bills to increase understanding and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act, the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act, the COMBAT PTSD Act, and more. In 2008, he co-authored and was the lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act along with his late father Senator Edward Kennedy. The legislation, signed into law in 2008, provides tens of millions of Americans who were previously denied care with access to mental health treatment. After leaving Congress, Kennedy co-founded One Mind for Research dedicated to dramatic enhancements in funding and collaboration in research across all brain disorders.