PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rep. Patrick Kennedy said he was ready to return to a full schedule in Washington following a monthlong treatment for substance abuse but emphasized that his priority was his mental health.
The six-term Democratic congressman, who has struggled with addiction since high school, planned to return to work Tuesday. He checked out Friday from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and said he has attended recovery meetings every day since.
"I would not be able to be a good member of Congress if my recovery did not come first," he told reporters Monday during a news conference at Brown University, where he also addressed a forum on the future of mental health care and addiction treatment.
Kennedy, 38, checked into rehab on May 5, a day after an early morning car crash near the U.S. Capitol that he said he could not remember.
Kennedy said he wasn't drinking the night of the one-car crash but had taken "the prescribed amount" of Phenergan, an anti-nausea drug, and Ambien, a sleep medication. He said he should not have been driving and called the accident "a wake-up call."
"Every day I am on my knees thanking God that I didn't hurt someone. This is an opportunity for me to get my life back on track," he said.
Kennedy said he did not think it was necessary to step down from office — despite calls to do so from some constituents and Republican Party leaders at home. Rhode Island is heavily Democratic, and his party unanimously endorsed him for re-election a few days after the crash.
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. He first sought treatment for addiction when he was a teenager and went into rehab for an addiction to cocaine.
The Washington accident raised questions about whether Kennedy 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. An investigation into the crash continues, police said Monday.
Kennedy would not discuss the details of the investigation but said he would accept any charges or jail time if authorities decide they are warranted.