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    SPOKANE, Washington - Patrick J. Kennedy, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and longtime advocate for health care reform related to preventive care and the treatment of mental illnesses and addiction, comes to Spokane, WednesdayJan. 31. Kennedy will lead a community forum about the importance of mental health care in our region and our nation.

    Kennedy is the keynote speaker at "Making Mental Health Essential Health," a community conversation.  The free event is presented by Providence Health Care and Eastern Washington University at the Spokane Convention Center. Doors open 5-6 p.m. for a presentation of local mental health resources; the keynote presentation and panel of local experts follows from 6-8 p.m.

    In his remarks, Kennedy will explain why and how the health care system must adapt to better accommodate mental health and addiction treatment, the underlying public policy imperatives around the Federal Parity Law, and why we need to invest in technological innovations to save lives.  

    In 2013, mental illness was estimated to be the most costly condition in the world, and the systems designed to help continue to be plagued by gaps in services, access and funding that make it difficult - and sometimes impossible ­- to provide a broad continuum of care for those in need. In Spokane, community experts have repeatedly identified mental health as one of the highest areas of need.

    Since his earliest days in public service, Kennedy believed that mental health should be a national priority. After 16 years in Congress and countless bills passed, one stands out among the rest for its impact on the lives of all Americans: the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, also known as the Federal Parity Law. This bill was designed to ensure that mental health is treated on-par with physical health, breaking down decades-old practices in the health care system that kept the two areas separate from one another, often with dire consequences.

    The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, the youngest son of the late Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, is the founder of The Kennedy Forum, a member of the President's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, co-founder of One Mind, and author of the New York Times bestseller "A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction."  

    During his 16-year career representing Rhode Island in Congress, he fought a national battle to end medical and societal discrimination against these illnesses, highlighted by his lead sponsorship of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008--and his brave openness about his own health challenges.  

    Local Expert Panelists:   

    Randy Russell, PhD - Superintendent, Freeman School District During his 30-year career in education Dr. Randy Russell has served as a teacher, coach, activities/athletic director, assistant principal, high school principal and superintendent. He is a member of the Washington Association of School Administrators and the American Association of School Administrators.  

    Jeff Thomas, EdD - Chief Executive Officer, Frontier Behavioral Health Jeff Thomas has worked in the mental health field for the past 33 years in both Washington and California. For the past 20 years he has served in an executive leadership role.  He is currently CEO of Frontier Behavioral Health, the largest provider of behavioral health services in the Inland Northwest.  

    Linda Thompson, MA, CPP, ICPS - Executive Director, Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council
    Linda Thompson began her lifework in substance abuse and violence prevention as a result of the August 1986 death of her three-year-old son at the wheels of a several time repeat impaired driver. Turning personal tragedy into public policy activism, she helped start the Spokane County DUI Victims Panel and soon after became the Executive Director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council (GSSAC). A Certified Prevention Professional, Linda also serves her community as an elected City Councilmember for the City of Spokane Valley. 

    The Community Health Forum is an annual presentation and community discussion of health related topics of importance to the Spokane community. It is presented by Providence Health Care and Eastern Washington University, with support from Empire Health Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.

    To learn more about the presenting partners please visit or


    Contact Information

    Dave Meany - EWU Media Relations
    300 Showalter Hall
    Cheney, WA 99004

    phone: 509.359.6335
    fax: 509.359.4701

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