Patrick J. Kennedy

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{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= }} Template:Infobox officeholder Patrick Joseph Kennedy II (born July 14, 1967) is an American politician and mental health advocate.[1] From 1995 to 2011, he served as a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Rhode Island's 1st congressional district. He is a former member of the President's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and co-founder of One Mind.

Born and raised in Boston, he is the youngest child and second son of the long-time Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and is a nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Providence College. He was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 1989, becoming the youngest member of the Kennedy family to hold elected office. He was then elected to represent Rhode Island's 1st congressional district. He was re-elected two times, serving from January 3, 1995, to January 3, 2011 (the 104th to 111th Congresses). In the House, Kennedy served on the Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees before being appointed to the Appropriations Committee.

At the time of his father's death in late August 2009, Patrick was the last remaining member of the Kennedy family to serve in an elective office in Washington. After he chose not to seek re-election in 2010 and left office the following year, it was the first time that no member of the Kennedy family held elected office since 1947.[2] The Kennedys' absence in politics was temporary however and following the next midterm election, the Kennedy family would return to hold both a federal elected office as well as a federally appointed office.

Early life and education

Patrick Kennedy with his father Ted Kennedy in 1985

Patrick Kennedy was born in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston. He is the youngest of three children born to Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy (1932–2009) (brother of John F. Kennedy) and musician/socialite/former model Virginia Joan Kennedy, née Bennett (born 1936). His sister Kara (1960–2011) was a television and film producer, while his brother Ted Jr. (born 1961), is a lawyer and former member of the Connecticut State Senate. Patrick was named after his paternal great-grandfather, businessman and politician P. J. Kennedy (1858–1929). Kennedy graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, (1986) and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, (1991).[3]

Rhode Island House of Representatives

While a junior at Providence College, Kennedy defeated five-term incumbent John F. Skeffington Jr. for the Democratic nomination in District 9.[4] In 1988, Kennedy became the youngest member of the Kennedy family to hold elected office, when he won election to the Rhode Island House of Representatives at age 21. He served two terms in the House representing District 9 in Providence. He chose not to run for a third term and was succeeded by Anastasia P. Williams.

U.S. House of Representatives

Kennedy speaking at a rally for American Indian and tribal unity in front of the U.S. Capitol

In 1994, Kennedy was elected as a Democrat to represent Rhode Island's 1st congressional district. He was re-elected seven times, serving from January 3, 1995, to January 3, 2011 (the 104th to 111th Congresses).

In the House, Kennedy served on the Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees before being appointed to the Appropriations Committee.

Kennedy was lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which passed on October 3, 2008.

Kennedy authored and co-sponsored the Positive Aging Act, the Foundations for Learning Act, which established a grant program to improve mental and emotional health for school children through screening and early intervention, the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act, Genomics and Personalized Medicine Act; the COMBAT PTSD Act; the Nurse-Family Partnership Act, the Alzheimer's Treatment and Caregiver Support Act, and the Ready, Willing, and Able Act[5]

Kennedy was among the founders of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and the 21st Century Healthcare Caucus and served as vice chairman of the Native American Caucus. He also joined the Congressional Boating Caucus; the Caucus on Armenian Issues; the Caucus on Hellenic Issues; the Fire Services Caucus; the Human Rights Caucus; the Travel and Tourism Caucus; the National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus; the Portuguese American Caucus (co-chair); and the Older American Caucus. He was a founder of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse and chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for two years (1999-2001). During his tenure as DCCC chairman, Kennedy became a headliner at Democratic political events and fundraisers around the country.

Committee assignments

Political campaigns

Kennedy campaigned for the seat being vacated by U.S. Representative Ronald Machtley (who was retiring) in the 1994 Rhode Island 1st congressional district election. He won the election, defeating Republican candidate Kevin Vigilante. Kennedy was one of four Democrats in the 1994 congressional elections to win a congressional seat that had previously been held by a Republican, while Republicans gained dozens of seats to take over the U.S. House. He was re-elected every two years from 1996 until 2008 and did not run for re-election in 2010.

In 2000, Kennedy considered running against Republican Lincoln Chafee in the U.S. Senate election in Rhode Island but instead chose to run for re-election. Kennedy had recently won appointment to the House Appropriations Committee, a high-profile assignment that caused him to pass up the Senate race. He again considered running against Chafee in 2006 but instead chose to run for re-election.

Kennedy did not run for re-election in 2010 and completed his final term in January 2011.[6] He finished his 8th term at the completion of the 111th United States Congress.

Post-congress advocacy

Since leaving Congress, Kennedy has written and spoken publicly about his long struggle with bipolar disorder and drug addiction[7] and become a leading advocate for a stronger mental health care system in the United States.[8]

Partnering with Shari and Garen Staglin in 2011, Kennedy launched One Mind (formerly One Mind for Research) with the intention of promoting the study of brain diseases. One Mind supports better diagnostics and new therapies to advance neuroscience discovery and fills the gaps in research funding by disseminating donor-supported funds.[9]

Kennedy founded The Kennedy Forum in 2013, a behavioral health nonprofit, of which he is CEO, with the mission of leading the national dialogue on transforming mental health and addiction care delivery by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles, including full implementation of the Federal Parity Law.[10] In 2018, Politico termed Kennedy "the unlikely go-to player for companies seeking to benefit from the Trump administration’s multibillion-dollar response to the opioid crisis". Kennedy sits on the boards of eight corporations involved with the government's response to the drug crisis. He "holds an equity stake in the firms" and "collects director fees" from the latter organizations, many of which "stand to benefit from fresh efforts in Congress and the Trump administration to combat the opioid crisis". As such, Kennedy lobbied "former congressional colleagues to advocate for higher levels of spending".[11]

In 2015, he co-authored A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction detailing his journey through mental illness, addiction, and his ongoing political advocacy for federal legislation in support of mental health and addiction health care.

In 2016, Kennedy founded Advocates for Opioid Recovery[12] together with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Van Jones, a former domestic policy adviser to President Barack Obama.[13]

He is also co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, established in 2013 with Kevin Sabet and David Frum, an anti-legalization group. Speaking in the context of California's Proposition 64, Kennedy argued the legalization movement was "putting our children at risk" and "exposed children from communities of color to more racial discrimination than before."[14]

Political positions


Kennedy is a vocal advocate for health care reform. During his tenure in Congress, he joined with U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) in introducing legislation that places mental illness under the umbrella of health insurance.

He was a chief sponsor of one of the major pieces of legislation of 2008, the Mental Health Parity Act, a bill requiring most group health plans to provide coverage for the treatment of mental illnesses which is no less restrictive than coverage provided for physical illnesses.[15]

He was a strong proponent of adding a comprehensive prescription-drug benefit to the U.S. Medicare and consistently opposed attempts to privatize the Medicare program. Kennedy also made numerous speeches advocating the re-orientation of the U.S. health-care system to preventive care. He has received numerous awards for his health care advocacy, including the Lymphoma Research Foundation's Paul E. Tsongas Memorial Award as well as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Congressional Honors Award.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} He also received the Society for Neuroscience — Public Service Award (2002), Eli Lilly and Company 2003 Helping Move Lives Forward Reintegration Award, American Psychoanalytic Association 2003 President's Award, American Psychiatric Association Alliance award (2003), and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance — Paul Wellstone Mental Health Award (2003).

He has also been awarded the National Recovery Champion Award, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Humanitarian Award, the American Psychiatric Association Patient Advocacy Award, the New York Academy of Science Breaking the Chains of Stigma Award, the Society for Neuroscience Public Service Award, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Distinguished Service Award, the Clifford Beers Foundation Centennial Award, the Autism Society of America Congressional Leadership Award, the Epilepsy Foundation Public Service Award, and the NAMI Humanitarian of the Year Award.[5]

In a March 7, 2008, speech to the Cleveland City Club, Kennedy acknowledged having bipolar disorder and being a recovering alcoholic. He and his siblings have legal custody of their mother, who has long struggled with alcoholism.

Kennedy served on the Office of National Drug Control Policy's President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in 2017.[16]

Iraq War

Kennedy was on the opposite side of the Iraq war debate as his father. Patrick Kennedy joined with 80 House Democrats in voting for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (the minority view among House Democrats). Whereas, his father in the Senate joined anti-war Democrats in voting against the bill (A minority position among Senate Democrats). [17] [18]

2008 presidential election

On January 28, 2008, Kennedy joined his father in endorsing Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, stating that Obama was the "perfect antidote to George Bush".[19] Prior to that, Kennedy had joined his first cousin Timothy Shriver in endorsing U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd from Connecticut.

Personal issues and incidents

Use of alcohol and other drugs

Kennedy has acknowledged being treated for cocaine use during his teenage years, and admitted that he abused alcohol and other drugs while he was a student at Providence College.[20] He sought treatment for an OxyContin addiction in 2006.[21] Due to his experience with addiction, Kennedy advocates against the legalization of recreational marijuana, but supports its medicinal use.[22][23]

Capitol Hill intoxicated-driving accident

On May 4, 2006, Kennedy crashed his automobile into a barricade on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at 2:45 a.m. A United States Capitol Police official said the congressman had appeared intoxicated when he crashed his car. According to Kennedy, he was disoriented from the prescription medications Ambien and Phenergan.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[dead link] }}[24] Anonymous sources are alleged to have seen Kennedy drinking at the nearby Hawk & Dove bar prior to the accident.[25][26] Kennedy also stated to officers that he was "late for a vote". However, the last vote of the night had occurred almost six hours earlier. The standard field sobriety test was not administered, and Kennedy was driven home by an officer.

On May 5, 2006, Kennedy admitted publicly that he had an addiction to prescription medication and announced he would be readmitting himself to a drug-rehabilitation facility at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where he had sought treatment for prior addictions.[27] He has stated that he has no recollection of the car crash. On May 8, 2006, Kennedy got a show of support when he was endorsed by the Rhode Island Democratic Party.[28] On June 5, 2006, Kennedy was released from drug rehabilitation.[29]

On June 13, 2006, Kennedy made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of prescription drugs.[30] He was sentenced to one-year probation and a fine of $350. Two of the three charges (reckless driving and failure to exhibit a driving permit) were dismissed. He was also ordered to attend a rehabilitation program that includes weekly urine tests, twice-weekly meetings with a probation officer, near-daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and a weekly meeting of recovering addicts.[31]

On June 12, 2009, Kennedy announced that he had again entered rehab, for an indefinite time at an undisclosed facility.[32] In a statement to the press, Kennedy said that his recovery is a "life-long process" and that he would do whatever it takes to preserve his health: "I have decided to temporarily step away from my normal routine to ensure that I am being as vigilant as possible in my recovery", Kennedy said.[32]

As of 2018, Kennedy says that he has been sober for more than six years.[33]

Personal life and family

Kennedy in 2015

His father, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, died on August 25, 2009. Patrick made a tearful eulogy at the funeral, saying that "He [Ted] would be very proud to see you all out here today paying a final respect and tribute to his memory". He further elaborated on his experiences with his father as a child, saying his father would stay at his bedside during his frequent bouts of ill health.[34][35]

When Kennedy decided not to run for reelection in 2010, he cited his decision on the fact that his life "has taken a new direction". Mark Weiner, a major Democratic party fundraiser in Rhode Island and one of Kennedy's top financial backers, said "It's tough to get up and go to work every day when your partner is not there, I think he just had a broken heart after his father passed away."[36]

Kennedy in 2016

Kennedy now resides in Brigantine, New Jersey. In March 2011 he announced his engagement to eighth-grade history teacher Amy Savell.[37][38] The couple married on July 15, 2011, in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.[39] Along with Amy's eldest daughter Harper (b. 2007) from her first marriage, they have two sons and two daughters:

  • Owen Patrick Kennedy (born April 15, 2012)[40]
  • Nora Kara Kennedy (born November 19, 2013)[41]
  • Nell Elizabeth Kennedy (born November 29, 2015)[42]
  • Marshall Patrick Kennedy (born May 27, 2018)[43]

In January 2020, Amy Kennedy announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for United States Congress, to represent New Jersey's 2nd congressional district.[44] Amy Kennedy defeated Brigid Callahan Harrison in the Democratic primary in July, and faced Democrat-turned-Republican incumbent Jeff Van Drew in the November general election.[45] She was ultimately defeated by Van Drew.


See also


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