The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation’s leading political voice on mental illness, addiction, and other brain diseases. During his 16-year career representing Rhode Island in Congress, he fought a national battle to end medical and societal discrimination against these illnesses, highlighted by his lead sponsorship of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008--and his brave openness about his own health challenges.
The son of Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, he decided to leave Congress not long after his father’s death to devote his career to advocacy for brain diseases and to create a new, healthier life and start a family. He has since founded the Kennedy Forum, which unites the community of mental health, and co-founded One Mind for Research, a global leader in open science collaboration in brain research. Kennedy is also the co-author of “A Common Struggle,” which outlines both his personal story and a bold plan for the future of mental health in America.
More than 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy asked Americans to think big, engage in the world beyond their own backyards, and make public service an integral component of everyday life. Part of the president’s cutting-edge approach to governing was to set audacious, seemingly unreachable goals…and exceed them. One of those goals was also the most storied, and most impactful: a call to reach the moon in a decade, catalyzing what is now known as the “space race.”
Today, Patrick J. Kennedy believes we’re are in a new space race, but it’s not about reaching a new planet, or exploring the cosmos. It’s a race of a different kind – a race to “inner-space,” a quest to understand the brain and brain health as much as we sought to understand the surface of the moon.
The stakes are clear – 1 in 4 Americans are touched by mental illness, whether personally or through the experience of a family member. Almost 20 million Americans have a substance abuse issue. More than 8 million people in this country have had a serious suicidal thought.
What binds these statistics together? A need to understand the underlying science of the brain, how it works, how it becomes compromised, and what we can do to achieve brain health. Patrick J. Kennedy will discuss new advances in science and policy that are leading the way toward a deeper understanding of “inner space,” and the role we all play in achieving the goal of making mental healthcare as routine, accessible, and understandable as physical healthcare.
Since his earliest days in public service, Patrick J. Kennedy believed that mental health should be a national priority. After 16 years in Congress, and countless bills passed, one stands out among the rest for the impact it has on the lives of all Americans – the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. This bill ensures that mental health is treated on-par with physical health, breaking down decades-old practices in the health care system that kept those two areas separate from one another, often with dire consequences.
Patrick J. Kennedy will discuss why mental health is critical to the overall health and wellbeing of all Americans, why the healthcare system needs to adapt to better accommodate mental healthcare, the underlying public policy imperatives of parity and why we need to invest in innovation.
Kennedy will also discuss his own journey toward mental health and recovery, and how he sees the world today.
An overwhelming majority of the public agrees that mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse are serious public health problems. Almost as many believe that the current way we are handling mental health needs to change.
This presentation will focus on the necessary steps that will fulfill President Kennedy’s vision of ensuring the best possible mental well-being for every American. Discussion topics will include implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, ways to accelerate advances in diagnostics, treatments and cures, and how we can integrate mental health into the mainstream of American medicine. The result will be improved outcomes for patients and lower costs for everyone.