Kennedy advocates for mental health screenings at opening of Galloway's Hope All Day Recovery Center (VIDEO)

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Laura Stetser/Former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy take a picture with supporters after his speech at the grand opening of The Hope All Day Recovery Center in Galloway Township on Monday, June 16. Laura Stetser/Former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy take a picture with supporters after his speech at the grand opening of The Hope All Day Recovery Center in Galloway Township on Monday, June 16.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy issued a rally call for action and advocacy on behalf of those struggling with addiction during his keynote speech at the grand opening of The Hope All Day Recovery Center on Odessa Avenue Monday, June 16.

“We are citizens in addition to being members of a 12-step program,” the recovering alcoholic said to standing-room only event at the center.

“We also pay taxes. We also vote, and right now all of tax dollars go to other people’s priorities. The brain, arguably the most important organ in all of lives, gets five of every $100 of your tax dollars. This is the status quo because people in this country are consumed with the thought that if you act strange, it’s a moral problem, not a medical problem. If you act weird and have ‘criminal behavior,’ it is a character problem not a chemistry problem. Like any of us volunteer on any given day when we are active in our illness choose to make asses of ourselves.”

The Hope All Day Recovery Center is a nonprofit organization that offers peer support in maintaining sobriety. It houses meeting space, resources for treatment and social services and computer work stations, as well as social events like open mic nights, dances and barbeques. The center is not clinical and does not offer detoxification or any other medical or counseling services.

 “We have a lot of work to do to get our public officials to support long-term recovery like what is being done here, because that is going to be the key to helping to change these attitudes, bit more importantly to change these lives, one life at a time,” Kennedy said.

 Now a Brigantine resident, Kennedy was the lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which among other measures, requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that financial requirements such as co-pays, deductibles and treatment limitations applicable to mental health or substance use disorder benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant requirements or limitations applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits.

 He said supporters need to continue to work to ensure the brain is treated like other parts of the body and said the need for mental health care is akin to the civil rights movement.

 “This is about people who are marginalized; they are excluded; they are discriminated against; and they are jailed in record numbers for nothing more than the immutable fact that they have a brain illness,” Kennedy said. “The fact of the matter is that this is a legal matter, but there is a spiritual dimension to this. We need to fight for improved laws and do that more challenging thing to do, which is to change inside as a people.”

 Kennedy said medical checkups need to include mental health screenings and discussions of family history with addictions just as there are screenings for cancers and other ailments.

 The center is located at 600 S. Odessa Ave., just off of Tilton Road and near bus route 508. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go to www.hopeallday.org or call 609-379-2582. 

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