Friday, May 05, 2006

Representing addiction

Following a dangerous pre-dawn car crash in our nation's capital, it has come to light that my Representative, Patrick Kennedy, is addicted to painkillers and alcohol. Today, the Rhode Island congressman announced that he is entering rehab.
Kennedy said, "I've got to do total abstinence, period,'' referring to drugs and alcohol. "From now on, obviously, I'm a very public face with addiction and alcoholism written on my head."
Having had close friends and family fall in and out of serious addictions, I can't help but to feel sympathy for the congressman (or any other high-profile figure, no matter how hypocritical that person might be). Hopefully, Kennedy's misfortune and public humiliation will not only force him into recovery, but also into representing the interests of the large portion of his constituency who struggle with addiction.

Kennedy has yet to cosponsor legislation that would repeal the Aid Elimination Penalty of the Higher Education Act, even though Rhode Island ranks above the national average of the percentage of students denied aid due to drug convictions. Although many affected by the penalty are non-problematic illicit drug users, I'm sure that many others suffer from addictions just like Kennedy. But unlike Kennedy, they, for the most part, are not fortunate enough to be able to afford expensive rehab programs (which is the only way to restore financial aid under the penalty).

Clearly, Kennedy should co-sponsor the RISE Act. But he shouldn't stop there. As "a very public face with addiction and alcoholism written on [his] head", he should represent victims of addiction by calling for a legislative shift from incarceration to education and treatment. He should call for an end to the so-called War on Drugs.

1 comment:

Jesse Stout said...

seperately, from
"Poorer Families Opting Out of College Education Assistance",2933,194158,00.html