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Patrick  Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy

Former US Representative (RI); Co-Founder, One Mind for Research

Biography

A pioneer in mental health policy and advocacy, the Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy served as Representative for Rhode Island’s First Congressional District for 16 years, championing causes essential to the well-being of all Americans. During his time on Capitol Hill, Mr. Kennedy was the author and chief sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, groundbreaking legislation that guaranteed, for the first time in history, equal access to mental health and addiction services. Kennedy was the nation’s leading political voice on mental illness, addiction, and other brain diseases. Calling it the “civil rights issue of our time,” Mr. Kennedy successfully oversaw the bill’s passage, and in 2008, it was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Read More >

Upon leaving Congress in 2011, Mr. Kennedy made a promise: to be a vocal advocate for the full and unequivocal implementation of the 2008 Parity law, and to push for a greater global investment in brain research, which Mr. Kennedy says is the “next great frontier in medicine.” To make that promise a reality, Mr. Kennedy has been instrumental in the formation of two innovative organizations: One Mind for Research and the Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health.

As a co-founder of One Mind for Research, Mr. Kennedy is leading the call to revolutionize the ways we study, diagnose and treat brain diseases. To achieve these objectives, One Mind is pioneering an innovative approach to open science that ensures that scientific research, results and data are available and accessible to everyone. This forward-thinking approach puts a premium on collaboration and innovation, ensuring that patients will receive quicker, better and more effective diagnosis and treatments.

Rep. Kennedy is also the founder of The Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health. The Forum, first organized to celebrate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing of the landmark Community Mental Health Act, is part of Mr. Kennedy’s ongoing national dialogue about the state of mental health in America. The Forum’s mission is to unite the nation’s health care system and rally the mental health community around a common set of principles: fully implement the 2008 parity law, bring business leaders and government agencies together to eliminate issues of stigma, work with providers to guarantee equal access to care, ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to craft better policy and give consumers a way to understand their rights.

Rep. Kennedy has authored and co-sponsored dozens of bills to increase the understanding and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act, the Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act, the COMBAT PTSD Act, The Nurse-Family Partnership Act, the Positive Aging Act, the Alzheimer’s Treatment and Caregiver Support Act, and the Ready, Willing, and Able Act, which called on the Department of Homeland Security to deploy a civilian response system to blunt the psychological impact of terrorism.

Rep. Kennedy has been recognized by many organizations for his mental health advocacy and leadership. He is the recipient of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Distinguished Service Award, the Society for Neuroscience Public Service Award, the Peter C. Alderman Foundation Humanitarian Award, the Clifford Beers Foundation Centennial Award, the Autism Society of America Congressional Leadership Award, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Paul Wellstone Mental Health Award, and the Epilepsy Foundation Public Service Award. In 2014, he was recognized by the Society of Biological Psychiatry, The Samaritan Institute, and The Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA). In October 2015, Kennedy released A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, which details his personal and political fight with mental illness and substance use disorders, while exploring the history of behavioral health care in the US.

Kennedy currently lives in New Jersey with his wife, Amy, and their four children. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

The Stigma of Confronting Mental Health

On Mental Health and Addition

Erasing the Stigma Award

Mental Health and Gun Violence

Kennedy Cousins Discuss Addiction and Recovery

Patrick Kennedy Discusses Bipolar Disorder With the Cast of Silver Linings Playbook

Healthy Minds

Speech Topics

Healthcare's Next Frontier: The Race to Inner Space

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.

My Journey: Making Mental Health Essential Health

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.

How to Fix the Mental Health System

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. 

Eliminating the Stigma of Mental Health

The Impact of Public Policy on Our Healthcare System

The Power of Research: Understanding & Promoting Treatment of Brain Disease