Patrick Kennedy To Seek Treatment

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), left, leaves a Capitol news conference in which he said he has
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), left, leaves a Capitol news conference in which he said he has "a chronic condition for which I am taking full responsibility." (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
By Del Quentin Wilber and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 6, 2006

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy said yesterday that he is entering treatment for an addiction to prescription medications, an announcement that comes as police continue their investigation into a car crash involving the congressman near the Capitol.

Calling his addiction a "chronic disease," Kennedy said he does not even recall the accident, which occurred early Thursday and raised questions about his behavior and how U.S. Capitol Police deal with members of Congress.

The congressman's office has said Kennedy (D-R.I.) was disoriented behind the wheel because he had taken prescription medication to calm stomach inflammation and to help him sleep. No one was injured in the crash, but Kennedy almost hit a Capitol Police car head-on before slamming into a security barrier, authorities said.

Kennedy, 38, said yesterday that he has been battling problems with addiction and depression since he was a young man and that he will seek immediate treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He was a patient there during Congress's winter break, he said, and thought he had returned to Washington "reinvigorated and healthy."

"I am deeply concerned about my reaction to the medication and my lack of knowledge of the accident that evening," he said during a brief news conference at the Capitol. "But I do know enough that I know I need help."

Kennedy did not answer questions at the news conference or address a controversy surrounding the Capitol Police department's handling of the matter. The union representing Capitol Police officers has said that Kennedy should have been given a sobriety test because officers at the scene suspected he had been drinking. The union suggested that Kennedy got special treatment because supervisors took over and drove him home.

Acting Capitol Police Chief Christopher M. McGaffin declined requests for comment yesterday. He told Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Congress, that managers had made mistakes in judgment and that "significant" administrative action has been taken.

The news conference was Kennedy's first public appearance since he crashed his green 1997 Ford Mustang convertible about 2:50 a.m. Thursday into the security barrier at First and C streets SE. New details emerged in a police report made public yesterday.

Before the crash, an officer saw the Mustang speeding through a construction zone and swerving into and traveling in the wrong lane of traffic, the report said. The car's lights were off, and the Mustang almost hit a police car before it smacked into the barrier.

In the report, an officer noted that Kennedy's eyes were "watery, speech was slightly slurred . . . and his balance was unsure."

Kennedy told the officer that he was "headed to the Capitol to make a vote," the report said. The House was not in session at the time.

Although the report includes a notation that alcohol played a role in the crash, police union officials said that supervisors did not allow officers to administer field sobriety or breathalyzer tests.

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