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Kennedy Urges Health Reform

Published: February 01, 2018

SPOKANE, Washington - The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and longtime advocate for mental health care reform, headlined a spirited community forum about addiction and treatment during a visit to Spokane Wednesday, Jan. 31.

The event, "Making Mental Health Essential Health," was presented by Eastern Washington University and Providence Health Care at the Spokane Convention Center.

During his keynote address to an overflow room, Kennedy shared his personal story of mental illness and addiction as well as his struggles in Congress to fight for adequate funding to address a problem he believes should be more of a national priority. 

"Every family is touched by mental illness," said a passionate Kennedy, who added that mental health conditions and addictions are fueling a public health crisis of suicides and overdoses.  

Kennedy discussed the key principles behind a federal parity law he helped champion, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. It requires mental health benefits to be on-par with physical health benefits issued by insurers. This bill is designed to break down decades-old practices in the health care system that swept mental issues into the shadows, often with dire consequences.

Despite the parity legislation Kennedy says the stigma around mental health remains, and he says the issue needs stronger advocacy for prevention and treatment at the local, state and federal level.

Following his address Kennedy joined a panel discussion featuring local experts who discussed mental health issues facing the region.  

In 2013, mental illness was estimated to be the most costly condition in the world, and the systems designed to help continue to be plagued by gaps in services, access and funding that make it difficult - and sometimes impossible ­- to provide a broad continuum of care for those in need. In Spokane, community experts have repeatedly identified mental health as one of the highest areas of need. Since his earliest days in public service, Kennedy believed that mental health should be a national priority.

The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, the youngest son of the late Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, is the founder of The Kennedy Forum, a member of the President's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, co-founder of One Mind, and author of the New York Times bestseller A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction. 

Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy

Community Forum Panel Discussion


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