BCBS of North Carolina CEO's resignation 'wrong message' on mental health, former congressman says

The resignation of Patrick Conway, MD, as CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield North Carolina after an alcohol-related car accident is "a major setback, both for Blue Cross NC and for those battling addiction nationwide," a former U.S. representative wrote in an opinion article for The News & Observer.

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I — an advocate for mental health parity at the federal level and a continued supporter of removing the stigma from mental illnesses and substance abuse — said Dr. Conway's resignation is a lost opportunity for public dialogue on mental health challenges and addictions.

In October, Dr. Conway was found guilty of driving while impaired and misdemeanor child abuse after a car crash involving him and his two daughters in June. He resigned from BCBSNC Sept. 26 after details emerged about the charges. BCBSNC trustees came under criticism for keeping the incident quiet for months after the arrest.

Once local media reported the story, Mr. Kennedy argued the reports lacked information about Dr. Conway's efforts to normalize mental health treatment. Mr. Kennedy pointed to Dr. Conway's former role at CMS, where he worked to incentivize physicians, psychiatrists and payers to collaborate on whole-person care. Dr. Conway continued efforts to improve mental healthcare at BCBSNC, where he hired its first chief medical director of behavioral health, according to Mr. Kennedy. 

"Had Patrick remained at the helm of Blue Cross NC, imagine the message it would have sent, locally and nationally," Mr. Kennedy wrote. "Watching Patrick confront addiction head on would have been a watershed moment in the fight against stigma."

For the full viewpoint article, click here.

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