Day 244- Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D- Rhode Island)

For the next 36 days (from March 28 to May 2),  I will be contacting and writing about 36 extraordinary members of the House of Representatives. They are all extraordinary in that they form the bipartisan Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus, and so they strive to address the unique needs of the spina bifida community in the U.S. My “mission” is to write to them, and urge them to make quality of life, and not solely prevention, a priority on their agenda in Congress. It has come to my attention that education about spina bifida is critical during all the stages of development– from planning to prevent spina bifida through the consumption of folic acid, to comprehensive education about spina bifida once it is diagnosed. We need to educate, starting with the physicians and other healthcare providers, so that they will be made aware of the potential that each child with spina bifida possesses.

I hope you’re all having an awesome weekend! While I still have just one essay left to turn in by Monday, Paola and I got together for dinner to celebrate the end of the semester. Indeed, it is a rite of passage for me to be nearly done, especially when I long to be able to dedicate my time and energy to the spina bifida cause.

The Lion of the Senate lives on through his son's valiant work for health care causes.

Speaking of which (since I got home too late last night to blog), here’s the first person we’re looking at tonight. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, or his famous family. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island is the son of the late Sen. Edward (Ted) Kennedy. A “vocal advocate for health care reform,” like his father was, Rep. Kennedy battled with severe chronic asthma during his childhood, and was also diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder.

In light of his personal experiences, Rep. Kennedy has teamed with Republican members of the House to ensure that mental illness is covered by health insurance plans. He has been a recipient of the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s Paul E. Tsongas Memorial Award, as well as a recipient of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation Congressional Honors Award.

Congressman Kennedy also co-sponsored the Asthmatic Schoolchildren’s Treatment and Health Management Act of 2003, and is responsible for having introduced the Prevention, Awareness, and Research of Auto-Immune Diseases Act of in 2003.

In the mental health paradigm, Rep. Kennedy has also received numerous accolades for his advocacy work. The Society for Neuroscience awarded him their Public Service Award in 2002, and he received the Depression and Bipolar Alliance – Paul Wellstone Mental Health Award in 2003.

Now, here’s the deal. This is only a minor change in my plans, and I don’t anticipate it to be a setback in my efforts. The day before yesterday, the Spina Bifida Association (which, as you know, “Holdin’ Out” is not affiliated with) posted the Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus Roster for 2010. Now, I’ve decided not to panic, especially since you will see many of the same familiar names that I’ve already profiled here. I hope to write to any new members soon.

Well, bear with me now, as I draft “tonight’s” entry, Day 245.

Peace & Love,

Laurita

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