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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Former United States Representative Patrick Kennedy is in West Michigan Monday pushing for changes with the nation's mental healthcare system.

The former congressman turned mental health advocate has openly discussed his own battles with depression and bipolar disorder. Kennedy, the youngest child of former United States Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, will speak during several events in the state this week. This includes an event at the Amway Grand Monday. Mental healthcare advocates hope Kennedy's message and his openness will help shine a light on the issue of mental health.

The Hope Network, a non-profit Christian organization, is responsible for bringing Kennedy to Michiganto promote integrated healthcare initiatives.

"As we approach 50 years of providing specialty and community health services to the people of Michigan, we also acknowledge that there is much to be done in the way of integrating mental healthcare and access for those we serve," said Phil Weaver, Hope Network President and CEO, in a press release issued Monday. "Hope Network pledges to help lead the statewide bi-partisan effort to integrate mental healthcare with physical healthcare in a way that is accessible to those in need. You don't have to look too hard to find news stories that indicate the need to bring mental healthcare to the forefront."

Kennedy will be the keynote speaker at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids March 25 meeting and then at the Lansing Regional Chamber Economic Club on March 26.

He and Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley will take part in a press conference Monday between 1:45 p.m. and 2:30 where they will address the media and take public comments regarding statewide initiatives.

"The Governor has made mental health a priority, establishing the Michigan Mental Health and Wellness Commission earlier this year.

"I applaud Hope Network for bringing the discussion of mental illness to the forefront. As a state, we want to be a leader in the integration of mental and physical healthcare," said Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, who is chairing the Michigan Mental Health and Wellness Commission. "We can't address integration without greater awareness. On behalf of the state of Michigan, I welcome Patrick Kennedy to lead this conversation given his story and perspective."

"We believe Patrick Kennedy is a wonderful example of how a public figure, from a very well-known and respected family, can advance the conversation and shatter the stigma associated with mental health," says Weaver. "Regardless of your political persuasion, we're confident that Mr. Kennedy's passionate case for mental health integration will be met with agreement."

Kennedy, the co-founder of One Mind for Research, served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and is predominantly known as the author and lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which is believed to be the last piece of legislation that Patrick and his father Ted worked on together. This dramatic piece of legislation provides access to mental health treatment to tens of millions of Americans who previously went untreated.

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