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State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-12) was presented with the 2018 Distinguished Service Award by the Connecticut Psychiatric Society in recognition of his outstanding leadership and advocacy on behalf of individuals facing mental health and addiction issues. The Connecticut Psychiatric Society represents 800 psychiatrists in Connecticut.
“This award is our highest honor presented to non-psychiatrists whose work has had a substantial impact on the understanding of and compassion towards those with mental illness. Senator Kennedy’s tireless advocacy in the General Assembly was an example of dedicated leadership. During his service in the legislature, Senator Kennedy raised the consciousness of his fellow legislators about barriers to mental health equality and parity. We believe that his work on behalf of those facing mental health and addiction issues will be a lasting legacy to the citizens of Connecticut,” said Dr. Melissa Welby, M.D., president of the Connecticut Psychiatric Society.
Welby cited many of Senator Kennedy’s legislative achievements, including his efforts to eliminate barriers to opioid addiction disorder by easing access to Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medication, and changing the law to allow for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to be provided via telehealth. She also applauded Senator Kennedy’s work to require that health plans indicate which doctors in their networks are, in fact, available for an appointment, not simply those that accept a certain insurance but may not be taking new patients. Finally, she cited Senator Kennedy’s mission to implement true mental health parity in Connecticut by requiring health plans to disclose claims data and prior authorization requests for mental health and addiction services compared with other forms of health care.
In accepting the award, Senator Kennedy said, “I have heard from countless families across Connecticut that health plans are still refusing to pay for mental health treatments. As a health care lawyer and life-long advocate for people with disabilities, I have fought to make mental health care and substance abuse treatment just as easy to get as any other condition. The stark and undeniable differences in coverage and reimbursement for mental health versus medical/surgical services is alarming and unacceptable. The high proportion of out-of-network behavioral care means that mental health and substance abuse patients are far more likely to face high out-of-pocket costs that can make treatment unaffordable, even for those with private health insurance. The Connecticut Psychiatric Society has been the leading voice in the state legislature in ensuring that mental health parity is implemented effectively.”
In addition to serving in the Connecticut General Assembly, Senator Kennedy is a partner in the law firm of Epstein, Becker & Green and board chairman of the American Association of People with Disabilities, a leading national disability rights organization. He recently announced that he would not seek re-election to the State Senate in order to focus his energy and attention on the national threats to disability equality and inclusion.
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