Tag Archives: JFK

A Younger Kennedy’s Mental Health Crusade

Patrick J. Kennedy is no longer in Congress, but he’s still campaigning passionately on behalf of mental health. In a plenary talk at the annual meeting of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP), the former democratic congressman from Rhode Island described his recent mission: An organization he founded called One Mind for Research, which “brings together the science, technology, financial resources, and knowledge required to create an unprecedented understanding of brain disease.” Its goal is to increase the investment in research by $1.5 billion each year for the next 10 years and to achieve a minimum 10% reduction in the cost of brain disease per year.

Courtesy of AAGP

The initiative was launched last May 25th on the anniversary of his uncle John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot” speech, at the suggestion of his cousin Caroline. He said he told her at the time, “Great, instead of going to outer space, we’ll go to inner space!”

On a more serious note, Mr. Kennedy drew a parallel between President Kennedy’s focus on civil rights as a moral issue and the cause of the mentally ill, telling the audience of psychiatrists “What you all do in the field of mental health is to help lessen the marginalization of too many Americans…I think we have a historic opportunity now, with the implementation of the Mental Health Parity Bill and the [Affordable Care Act] to break down the segregation of mental health from overall health.”

Referencing his own struggles with substance abuse, depression and bipolar disorder and his role in Congress as chief sponsor of the parity bill, Mr. Kennedy decried the current insurance reimbursement system as being “wholly inadequate” for treating chronic mental conditions. “If we treated diabetics the way we treat alcoholics and addicts, we’d be waiting till we were cutting off their toes and they’d lost their eyesight before we paid for treatment,” he said, to applause.

He was equally emphatic regarding the politics involved in securing funding for One Mind’s 10-year plan. “If you consider how much money we put into neuroscience today compared to the burden of [mental] illness, any CEO in the country would be kicked out of their job for not doing enough research…it just doesn’t compute,” he said, again to applause.

He acknowledged there would be challenges. “I can’t tell you we’re going to be successful, but at least I’m going to do my part to see that we try something different.”

The AAGP plenary session was supported in part by an educational grant from Lilly USA, LLC.

-Miriam E. Tucker (@MiriamETucker on Twitter)

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Filed under Genomic medicine, Health Policy, health reform, IMNG, Medical Genetics, Neurology and Neurological Surgery, Physician Reimbursement, Practice Trends, Psychiatry

HELP Mark-Up: Who’s Missing From This Picture?

From the Senate HELP Committee mark-up of its health reform bill, Senate Caucus Room, Russell building

The Senate HELP Committee (also popularly called the Health Committee) wrapped up 60 hours of tinkering with its health reform plan today, capping it off with a 13-10 party line vote approving the plan.  (For more coverage, see here, here, and here. )

Happy HELP Committee/Photo by Alicia Ault

Happy HELP Committee/Photo by Alicia Ault

It was, as Acting Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) pointed out, yet another historic happening in the Caucus Room, which had hosted the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, the Army-McCarthy hearings, the Watergate hearings, and, the announcements by both John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy that they would seek the presidency.

That last fact was especially poignant, given that the Senate’s guiding voice on health reform, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), has been missing from action, because of his struggle with brain cancer.

At the day’s opening, Sen. Dodd noted that he’d just gotten off the phone with the Senator’s wife, Vicki Kennedy. And he said, as he choked up a bit, that he’d spoken earlier in the morning with the Senator.

Soon thereafter, a printed statement from Sen. Kennedy, with a Hyannis Port, Mass., dateline, appeared in the Caucus Room. In that statement, Sen. Kennedy praised the Committee’s work and mentioned the room’s special importance to him.

But his absence was notable, especially as the meeting drew to a close.  All the senators in attendance gathered for a group photograph of the historic moment.

Take a look: No Ted Kennedy. And, judging from Sen. Dodd’s demeanor when he discussed his long-time colleague and friend, we may not be seeing him any time soon.

At a stand-up with reporters after the vote, Sen. Dodd said, “We miss Ted Kennedy,” and then, added, “he is here in spirit,” followed by a rough clearing of his throat.

—Posted at 4:30 EDT by Alicia Ault at  (on Twitter @aliciaault)

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