Saturday, October 12, 2013

U.S. at Decisive Moment in History of Mental Health Treatment, Kennedy Says

Parity for treatment of mental illness and substance abuse is a human- and civil-rights issue, said former congressman Patrick Kennedy last night during a “Conversations” event with APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., at the APA Institute on Psychiatric Services. “Conversations” is an annual event at APA meetings sponsored by the American Psychiatric Foundation.

Kennedy and Lieberman spoke for over an hour before a packed hall, and the former congressman, who was instrumental in helping to pass the landmark 2008 parity bill, discussed his own journey toward understanding the importance of equal treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. He recounted his mother’s struggle with alcoholism and his problems with addiction, as well as his Aunt Rosemary’s intellectual disability, saying that within his own family mental illness and substance abuse were “the elephant in the living room that no one talked about.” And he recalled how during his political career he parked his car three blocks away from his psychiatrist’s office to avoid being recognized. And yet, ironically, he found himself, along with his late father, Sen. Edward Kennedy, being a champion of the 2008 federal parity law.

Kennedy emphasized that now—with a “final rule” from the government that will provide a regulatory framework for implementing the 2008 law expected very soon—is a decisive moment. He said transparency in the way insurance companies make medical-necessity decisions will be crucial to ensuring the full implementation of parity. “The exciting thing for all of you is that with health care reform, we are rewriting the rules,” Kennedy emphasized. “Organizations like APA need to be even more aggressive than ever before, because we are at a formative point….This is the moment in history when we really have the opportunity to change the landscape.”

(Image: Ellen Dallager)


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