Patrick Kennedy Says Military Veterans Are ‘Being Held Behind Enemy Lines’ by Mental Health Care System

July 02, 2010

WASHINGTON, July 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy told the annual convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) today that “Every day in America, our military veterans are being held behind enemy lines,” because of a “Byzantine mental health system.”

“By changing the mental health system for veterans, we will change it for all of us.”

He also said “acute episodic care for chronic illness doesn’t work” and long-term comprehensive support is needed.

On Friday, the Army Surgeon General’s special assistant for mental health, Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., and Ira Katz, M.D., deputy chief patient care services officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs, will participate in a NAMI Convention symposium asking whether the VA and Department of Defense can move forward together in reforming the system.

NAMI presented Kennedy, who is leaving Congress this year, with its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, for leading the charge in the House of Representatives for mental health insurance parity.

Parity was signed into law in 2008 and expanded in the recently enacted health carereform law.

Kennedy is the only current Member of Congress who has publicly talked about his living with bipolar depression.

“I’m not a hero because of my illness,” Kennedy told the convention. “I didn’t have a choice.”

“NAMI mission is providing hope and saving lives,” said NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick.

“Patrick Kennedy’s long-time support for our cause have made him an invaluable, passionate advocate and champion loved by millions of individuals and families affected by mental illness.”

“He will be missed in the halls of Congress, but we know he will continue to make contributions as a private citizen.”


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