U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy said Monday he was feeling good after nearly a month in drug rehabilitation and realizes he can no longer take any "mood-altering" substance.
The six-term congressman checked into a rehabilitation clinic on May 5, one day after a middle-of-the-night car crash near the U.S. Capitol that he said he could not remember.
Kennedy said he wasn't drinking that night but had taken "the prescribed amount" of Phenergan, an anti-nausea drug, and Ambien, a sleep medication. He said Monday, in his first public appearance since leaving the clinic, that he would continue treatment for addiction and now understands that he can't take anything considered "mood-altering."
"I can tell you today, I feel confident about my health, positive about my future, and passionate about my work representing the people of Rhode Island," the Rhode Island Democrat said in a speech at Brown University on the future of mental health care and addiction treatment.
Kennedy was released from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on Friday. He also had been treated at the clinic over the Christmas holidays.
He called the accident "a wake up call" and said he was grateful he did not hurt anyone.
The experience "has reaffirmed for me that the challenge of mental illness is a part of everyone's experience — whether it has touched an individual, a friend or family member," he said. He said he received "an outpouring of support" while he was at the clinic. "Hundreds shared their personal experience with this disease," he said.
"Congressman Kennedy's doctors are encouraged by his progress and have worked with him to put in place a stringent system of after care that may include periodic visits to Mayo Clinic for continued health care consultation," the clinic said in a statement released by Kennedy's office.
The Washington accident raised questions about whether Kennedy, 38, was given special treatment by police, who did not conduct field sobriety tests. Capitol Police cited him for three traffic violations and said he appeared to be intoxicated.
Kennedy, the son of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., has been a passionate advocate for improved mental health care coverage and has spoken publicly about his own battles with depression, alcoholism and substance abuse.
A few days after the crash, Rhode Island Democrats endorsed him for re-election.
Republicans have called for him to step down.
"He ought to resign because he can't fulfill his duties as congressman," said Chuck Newton, Rhode Island Republican Party spokesman. "We're a small state and we only have two congressmen, so it really matters if someone can't do the job."