Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. suffers from mood disorder, doctor says

CHICAGO — Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., whose mysterious month-long leave of absence has prompted calls for more disclosure, is at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder, his doctor said in a statement released by the congressman’s chief of staff Wednesday evening.

The statement said information about Jackson’s treatment is protected by federal law and that the attending physician’s name and treatment center “will not be disclosed in order to protect (Jackson’s) continuing privacy.”

Earlier, an NBC report said that Jackson was being treated in Arizona for alcoholism, but after the report aired, Rick Bryant, Jackson’s chief of staff, released an e-mail statement saying that “rumors about him being treated for alcohol or substance abuse are not true.”

The statement quoted the unnamed Jackson doctor saying: “The congressman is receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder. He is responding positively to treatment.”

Earlier Wednesday, Alderman Sandi Jackson said she is hopeful physicians will release details soon about her husband.

“I’m hopeful that my husband’s doctors will be able to release something soon,” she told The Chicago Tribune. “I’m in constant talks with them about Jesse’s condition and his medical prognosis going forward.”

Rep. Jesse Jackson, 47, a Democrat, has been on a medical leave since June 10, but his aides and family have declined to disclose the nature of his medical problem, where he is being treated or when he may return to work.

Jackson’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, refused to talk about his son’s condition during the annual conference of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition Wednesday.

The elder Jackson tried to keep the focus on the PUSH event. He told reporters who approached the dais in a ballroom at the Hilton and Towers Hotel — where he sat with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and others — that it was “inappropriate” for them to ask him about his son.

“Inappropriate, no discussion, please,” Jackson said as he paused between photos with dignitaries.

When a reporter said it was the first time in 42 years he had found Jackson at a loss for words, Jackson responded, “My words are not lost, it’s inappropriate. This is a business dinner.”

Before the luncheon, former U.S. Sen. Roland Burris told the large media contingent to leave Jackson Jr. alone.

“You all aren’t here to cover this convention, you’re here to cover Jesse Jr. That is ridiculous,” Burris said.

Earlier Wednesday, a top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives urged Rep. Jackson to tell voters what is ailing him.

“Let me just deal with this briefly in this way. I think Congressman Jackson and his office and his family would be well advised to advise the constituents of his condition,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “He’s obviously facing a health problem. We have many members who are out right now.

“This is not an unusual circumstance. People get sick, and when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that. But I think the family would be well advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate.”

The comments by Hoyer, the House minority whip, are a shift from his statements Tuesday, when he was quoted by The Hill as saying, “They (Jackson’s aides) have certainly reported that he is ill and seeking help. And I think that that fulfills that responsibility.”

Hoyer’s new remarks urging more disclosure follow similar calls from Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 official in the Senate, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

But Quinn declined to join them Wednesday.

“I was, perhaps I was the only public official to endorse Congressman Jackson when he first ran for office in 1995,” Quinn said. “And he’s a good man. … I think at this time, the people of Illinois have good hearts. When somebody is dealing with challenges on their health, we wish them well and we pray for them. I pray for Jesse Jackson Jr. every single day and I think everybody should.”

Pressed by a reporter on whether Jackson should explain his medical condition, Quinn said: “Well, I think you’ve heard enough. He has some health challenges that he’s dealing with right now and I think it’s good that we help that person out.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also was willing to give Jackson more time to disclose his medical condition.

“The time is right when Congressman Jackson has an evaluation of what his situation is and I’m sure then he will share it with his constituents, “ Pelosi said at a separate news conference today.

Pelosi, who said she had not spoken to the lawmaker since his leave began, added: “I hope that we will hear soon that he is on the way to recovery. He’s a valued member of Congress.”

She also said the timing of when more should be made public “is related not to my curiosity or anybody else’s, but to his health care needs.”

Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins disclosed the lawmaker’s medical leave more than two weeks after it began, saying he was being treated for “exhaustion.”

Last Thursday, Watkins released a second statement saying Jackson long had grappled privately with “physical and emotional ailments” and would need extended in-patient treatment and continuing medical care afterward.

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