Kennedys taking on addiction

Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Richard Coolidge, Jordyn Phelps & Sherisse Pham
Power Players

Top Line

Christopher Kennedy Lawford, nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy, is calling for improvements in the nation's treatment of addiction and mental illness in a new book.

"We've de-institutionalized the mentally ill in this country, our treatment now is in prisons and on the streets, and it's not working, " says Lawford, author of Recover to Live: Conversations with 100 of the World's Top Treatment Experts.

Lawford is no stranger to addiction. Not only did he once struggle with a substance abuse himself, but he watched his cousin, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., publicly battle with addiction during his time in Congress. Patrick Kennedy wrote the forward for the book.

"My cousin Patrick talks about a check up from the neck up; we need to start treating mental illness the way we treat physical illness. Get it early, get it fast, pay attention to it as a society," Lawford says. "Otherwise, we're going to suffer the consequences."

Lawford says he is proud to carry on the Kennedy legacy of advocacy, saying that his uncle, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., "would be very mad at me if I turned my back" on this issue.

A senate seat in Massachusetts is about to open up, and there is a lot of talk of Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Sen. Kennedy’s widow, filling the post on a temporary basis.

“It always good to have a presence in Washington,” says Lawford. “I love to see members of my family down here.”

To hear more about Lawford's advice for dealing with addictions, and to learn what Norman Mailer once said of the author, check out this week's Top Line.