Rep. Kennedy to get rehab

R.I. Democrat seeks addiction treatment after D.C. car crash


WASHINGTON -- In the latest incident involving the sometimes troubled Kennedy clan, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy headed yesterday to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for treatment for addiction after a minor late-night accident that he acknowledged he did not remember.

Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, did not explicitly say in a statement yesterday what addiction treatment he was seeking, but he announced for the first time that he had also checked himself into the Mayo Clinic over Christmas for addiction to prescription pain medication.

He did not allude in his brief statement to a police report that alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash, which slightly scraped his Ford Mustang but injured no one.

He denied earlier that he had been drinking before the incident, suggesting rather that it was the result of taking prescription drugs for a stomach ailment and for sleeplessness.

Kennedy, who won political office in the Rhode Island state House as a 21-year-old college student, became a congressman in 1994 and has remained popular while freely admitting problems with depression and alcohol and substance abuse.

He said the incident at 2:47 a.m. Thursday "concerns me greatly. I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by police, or being cited for three driving infractions," Kennedy said.

The Capitol Police, a force of 1,700 whose main duty is to protect members of Congress, cited Kennedy for three driving violations but did not give him a breath test or arrest him for drunken driving despite finding that he appeared inebriated.

Legal experts pointed out yesterday that the Constitution protects members of Congress from arrest while they are in session except for cases of "Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace."

Paul Rothstein, a constitutional expert at Georgetown Law Center, said the Capitol Police probably handled Kennedy's car crash correctly by not testing his breath but driving him home and later writing up tickets. Detaining Kennedy for a breath test could be construed as an arrest, Rothstein said.

Despite the three exceptions to the provision, police in Washington, D.C., have construed it to give broad protection, he said. The incident is under investigation by the Capitol Police.

Kennedy - whose father is Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and whose uncles were John F. and Robert F. Kennedy, both gunned down by assassins - vowed that he would not step down from his congressional post.

"I need to stay in the fight," he said as he made his statement yesterday.

Kennedy said he had gone home Wednesday evening after work and had taken "the prescribed amount" of Phenergan, a prescription anti-nausea drug that can cause drowsiness, and Ambien, a sleep medication.

Dr. John F. Eisold, the attending physician for Congress, had prescribed Phenergan on May 2 to treat Kennedy's gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

According to the drug's label, Phenergan can increase the effects of sleep medicines such as Ambien.

Kennedy was prescribed Ambien on April 25 for insomnia, according to a statement from Eisold, released by Kennedy's office.

Ambien comes with a warning to patients that it can cause confusion, strange behavior and hallucinations.

Timothy M. Phelps and Tom Brune write for Newsday. Wire reports contributed to this article.

U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy

Born: July 14, 1967

Education: B.A. in social science, Providence College, 1991

Experience: Elected to three terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, six terms in the U.S. House

Family: Single. Parents are Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Joan Bennett Kennedy.

[ Associated Press]

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