Former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy was presented with McLean Hospital’s highest honor, the McLean Award, on October 23 at the Hospital’s Annual Dinner at the InterContinental Hotel in Boston. Kennedy was recognized for his work as the nation’s leading political voice on mental health and substance use disorders. As a former U.S. Representative for Rhode Island, Kennedy fought a national battle to end medical and societal discrimination against these illnesses.
“From Capitol Hill and beyond, Patrick Kennedy has truly dedicated himself to the important issues of mental health and addiction,” said McLean Hospital President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD. “During his tenure in Congress, Patrick was able to affect real change in increasing access to mental health services, and since leaving Congress he has kept his promise to continue advocating for mental health and pushing for investment in brain research. We are very proud to present him with the McLean Award.”
A pioneer in mental health policy and advocacy, Kennedy served 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, 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. Calling it the “civil rights issue of our time,” Kennedy oversaw the bill’s passage, which in 2008, was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Upon leaving Congress in 2011, 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. To make that promise a reality, Kennedy helped form two innovative organizations: One Mind for Research and The Kennedy Forum on Community Mental Health.
In October, Kennedy released a book, A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, which details his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction. The book, part memoir and part call-to-action, explores the history of psychiatric care in this country alongside his private struggles, and outlines a bold plan for the future of mental health in America.
Before graciously accepting the McLean Award, he spoke poignantly about his own challenges and expressed his respect and gratitude for the work being done at McLean. “I wrote Common Struggle, not to describe the illnesses...but to talk about the other common struggle, which is that we don’t talk about these illnesses. That is the defining aspect that unites all of us. That we tiptoe around these issues, we whisper about these issues...I want to thank you all for doing all that you can to help break the silence,” said Kennedy.
Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker issued a special citation recognizing Patrick J. Kennedy, recipient of the 2015 McLean Award. Kennedy received the award, the hospital’s highest honor, for the profound impact he has had on mental health issues as they relate to the well-being of the American people.
The proclamation was presented at the McLean Hospital Annual Dinner on October 23 at the InterContinental Hotel in Boston. Delivered by Mary Lou Sudders, Massachusetts Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Mental Health, it reads:
On behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I am pleased to confer upon you this governor’s citation in recognition of receiving the McLean Award. Your tireless advocacy, push for legislation, and contribution to organizations focused on advancing brain research has helped further the public’s understanding of psychiatric illnesses and mental health issues.