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Patrick Kennedy to discuss students with mental illness

Patrick Kennedy has said that his biggest congressional accomplishment was passing the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who has struggled with bipolar disorder and addiction, will kick off USC’s Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics discussion this fall at “University Students Living With Mental Illness — Changing the Conversation.”

The free event will take place on Sept. 9 at 12:15 p.m. at the USC Gould School of Law, Room 7. Kennedy will join USC Gould Professor Elyn Saks, USC law student Evan Langinger and psychiatry resident Michelle Wu to engage in a discussion about how they managed their mental illness through their university years.

Kennedy, former U.S. representative for Rhode Island and son of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, has spent the past several years fighting for services for people with mental illness.

“Eliminating the stigma of mental illness — and finally achieving parity for its treatment — is the next chapter in America’s civil rights movement,” Kennedy wrote in a recent op-ed posted on CNN.com.

University students who battle mental illness face unique challenges, said Saks, founder of the institute.

“Many try to hide their symptoms because they are embarrassed, confused or afraid. Many are experiencing these feelings for the first time,” said Saks, the USC Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences. “We want to provide tools that will help them.”

Kennedy has said that his biggest accomplishment while in Congress was passing the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, which provides access to mental health treatment for millions of Americans who previously were denied care. Signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, the landmark legislation requires health insurers that offer coverage for mental illness and substance use disorders to provide benefits.

“This was a proud moment for me, but those with mental illnesses are still waiting for some pieces of this law to be implemented…. Today, too many Americans are told that they’re less entitled to health care than those who have diseases like diabetes or cancer or asthma, just because the origin of their illness is in their brain,” Kennedy wrote. “Without equality, or parity, insurers can refuse to cover mental illnesses at the same level as other physical illnesses, making it harder for people to get well and often further isolating them in their struggle. Together, we must change that.”

To RSVP, contact Christopher Schnieders at (213) 740-5714 or visit sakslecture@law.usc.edu.

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Patrick Kennedy to discuss students with mental illness

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