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Patrick Kennedy says Military Veterans are “being held behind enemy lines” by mental health care system


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.”

Kennedy 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 care reform 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 has 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.”

Approximately 1000 NAMI members are on Capitol Hill today pressing legislators on priorities that include:

• Support for Veterans independent budget recommendations
• Mental health block grants and higher “Medicaid match” rates to overcome ongoing state budget and mental health crises.
• Support for the Preventing Harmful Restraint & Seclusion in Schools Act (S. 2860).
• Support for scientific and medical research on mental illness
• Housing for people with serious mental illness
• Decriminalization of mental illness through the Recidivism Reduction Act (HR 2829)
“Be seen and be heard,” Kennedy told NAMI members. “You are breaking stigma simply by being here.”

About NAMI
NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy.


 2010 NAMI Convention
 Patrick Kennedy
 mental illness

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