What You Need To Know About President-Elect Joe Biden's Plans for Mental Health Care
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Due to COVID-19, Americans are experiencing intense mental health crises that clearly go with the territory of an unhampered international pandemic. From depression to anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental health turmoil is running rampant, especially among frontline workers. There is the pain of losing loved ones, the stress of social isolation under lockdown, addiction, financial hardship, fear of eviction, concerns over job security as well as the expiration of unemployment benefits, food insecurity and a host of other problems. Not to mention those of us fighting the actual disease itself.
This summer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of adults in the U.S. reported struggling with their mental health, including substance abuse. And the Trump administration is sleeping on it.
In the past couple of weeks, despite President Donald Trump’s efforts in court to try to undermine and flip the election, Joe Biden won enough electoral college delegates to capture the presidency, along with his vice president-elect Kamala Harris. The General Services Administration, after about two weeks, finally vowed to aid Biden in the transition. The inauguration is January 20, 2021.
And mental health and wellness will undoubtedly take precedence in the upcoming administration. “As President, I’ll use the bully pulpit of the White House to eliminate the stigma around mental health,” Biden has said. “As a society, we need to work together to eliminate the stigma felt by those who are suffering and struggling with their mental health. We must ensure that everyone has access to affordable quality health care and that mental health services are covered.”
In other words, Biden believes in mental health parity, i.e. that mental health services should be covered as equally as physical health.
Biden is a staunch advocate for the American people when it comes to mental health. He cohosted, along with former President Obama, the White House National Conference on Mental Health back in 2013. The event convened mental health professionals, teachers, students and more to open a dialogue on mental health.
With regard to education, in a statement, President-elect Biden shined a light on mental health in our schools, noting that there is currently only one school psychologist for every 1,400 students. He vows to better that figure to one in 700.
Telehealth, which is important now more than ever given the coronavirus, is likely to be expanded under a Biden administration. And mental health in schools may also be a priority. “I will make an unprecedented investment in school mental health professionals in order to double the number of guidance counselors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals employed in our schools,” Biden has said, “And [I will] partner with colleges to expand the pipeline of these professionals.”
The Trump administration this week nixed plans to pay for mental health care of immigrants who are suffering because of the child separation policy and the PTSD that dovetails with emigrating during not only a contagious, threatening virus, but also political strife.
I wrote a scathing indictment of the immigrant catastrophe at the border back in 2019. In his 2021 budget, President Trump has decreased funding by $142 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), an allocation meant partly to curb the opioid epidemic. On the contrary, our new president-elect plans to alleviate this mental health disaster with all his might.
President-elect Joe Biden has a five-point plan to deal with the opioid crisis. It would increase access to services through a $125 billion investment, hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, punish overprescribing, slow the torrent of drugs from Mexico and China, and reform the criminal justice system so that “no one is incarcerated for drug use alone.”
In other words, Biden believes in rehabilitation, not incarceration.
One of Biden’s signature concerns is caring for our veterans, who as we all know, often experience PTSD. The scourge of suicide among veterans is something Biden will likely address, eliminating wait times for those in crisis and expanding all health care at vet centers.
Amplifying the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, will be a godsend for those of us in the mental health community. We’ll be able to breathe easily, knowing our president possesses tender loving care and unrelenting empathy.