Mental Health and Substance Abuse

FACT SHEET: President Biden to Announce Strategy to Address Our National Mental Health and Substance Abuse Crisis, As Part of Unity Agenda in his First State of the Union

Yep, this nugget came straight from the White House's Briefing Room on March 01, 2022, right before President Biden delivered his first State of the Union Address. We added the Substance Abuse. Why? Because it's a given.

With the Ukraine and COVID and everything else that's affecting the United States, as well as the rest of the Free World, we're thrilled the president found time to address mental health and substance abuse. In fact, it's rather impressive. And we're surely not the only ones who are grateful the good man and his staff haven't forgotten those who are suffering from such maladies.

"We're really thrilled about this focus," Schroeder Stribling told NPR. Stribling is president and CEO of the advocacy group Mental Health America. "We have needed a bold national strategy for a long time, and we're just pleased to see that the administration is taking this opportunity. This has been long in coming."

Indeed, "the federal government has essentially been missing in action for 41 years," added Dr. Thomas Insel, a psychiatrist and the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Biden's comments and this fact sheet bring it back into the center of the action for mental health."

Experts are particularly pleased because they believe Covid will be impacting mental health and substance abuse for a long time to come.

Rather than fill this space with opinion though, we thought it best to highlight just what's on the agenda. So to highlighting we shall go:

A Unity Agenda

Mental health has historically drawn support from both Republicans and Democrats. And while substance abuse hasn't enjoyed the same consistency, now that mental health and substance abuse are more often paired together will undoubtedly give the issue some traction. With both issues now at crisis level, it's imperative that we as a nation take action.

That's why President Biden outlined "a unity agenda" to combat both mental health and substance abuse, then called on Congress to tacitly support it.

In his first State of the Union, the President will outline a unity agenda consisting of policy where there has historically been support from both Republicans and Democrats, and call on Congress to send bills to his desk to deliver progress for the American people. As part of this unity agenda, he will announce a strategy to address our national mental health crisis.

"Even before the pandemic, rates of depression and anxiety were inching higher," ran the briefing. "But the grief, trauma, and physical isolation of the last two years have driven Americans to a breaking point."

President Biden is particularly concerned with the youth mental health crisis, which "has been accentuated by large social media platforms. These platforms "have been conducting a national experiment on our children for years," insists the President. "And they've been using their data to keep kids clicking — with enormous consequences."

In fact, "one in three high school students and half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019." That's up 40 percent from 2009. Even worse, "emergency department visits for attempted suicide have risen 51 percent among adolescent girls."

President Biden is laying out a vision to transform how mental health is understood, perceived, accessed, treated, and integrated – in and out of health care settings. The American Rescue Plan laid the groundwork. Now though, it;s time to follow through. This way everyone who needs help can access care when and where they seek it.

Strengthen System Capacity

One of the main issues with mental health and substance abuse is a severe shortage of behavioral health and addiction treatment providers. There simply isn't enough help to be had. And what help does exist is fragmented, making it difficult for people to access.

We must dramatically expand the supply, diversity, and cultural competency of our mental health and substance use disorder workforce – from psychiatrists to psychologists, peers to paraprofessionals – and increase both opportunity and incentive for them to practice in areas of highest need. Our crisis response infrastructure must also be strengthened to ensure that those facing acute behavioral health challenges can be seamlessly connected to necessary services.

How? This is how:

  • Invest in proven programs that bring providers into behavioral health.
  • Pilot new approaches to train a diverse group of paraprofessionals.
  • Build a national certification program for peer specialists.
  • Promote the mental well-being of our frontline health workforce.
  • Launch the “988” crisis response line and strengthen community-based crisis response.
  • Expand the availability of evidence-based community mental health services.
  • Invest in research on new practice models.
  • Connect Americans to Care

    Less than half of Americans with mental health conditions receive treatment. And those who do finally receive treatment generally have to wait 11 years from the onset of symptoms. The substance abuse issue isn't much better -- or quicker. Why? Care is often too costly. We must fight to ensure that every American can access mental health and substance use disorder care through their insurance coverage.

  • Expand and strengthen parity.
  • Integrate mental health and substance use treatment into primary care settings.
  • Improve veterans’ access to same-day mental health care.
  • Expand access to tele- and virtual mental health care options.
  • Expand access to mental health support in schools and colleges and universities.
  • Embed and co-locate mental health and substance use providers into community-based settings.
  • Increase behavioral health navigation resources.
  • Support Americans by Creating Healthy Environments

    We cannot transform mental health and substance abuse solely through the health care system though. We must also invest in community services, and foster a culture and environment that broadly promotes mental wellness and recovery. This crisis is not a medical one, the Brief continues, but a societal one.

    We need a whole-of-society effort to address these concerns: to expand prevention programs and actions that improve mental health at every age and across settings; and to enhance programs that support recovery, especially for populations at increased risk during vulnerable transition periods.

    The Biden-Harris Administration will:

  • Strengthen children’s privacy and ban targeted advertising for children online.
  • Institute stronger online protections for young people, including prioritizing safety by design standards and practices for online platforms, products, and services.
  • Stop discriminatory algorithmic decision-making that limits opportunities for young Americans.
  • Invest in research on social media’s mental harms.
  • Expand early childhood and school-based intervention services and supports.
  • Set students up for success.
  • Increase mental health resources for justice-involved populations.
  • Train social and human services professionals in basic mental health skills.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse

    Recovery Boot Camp salutes President Biden and the White House for putting Mental Health and Substance Abuse front and center. We also salute the president for so stridently stepping up in his first State of the Union. We can't even guess how many issues must be vying for his attention; that he's chosen to highlight Mental Health and Substance Abuse shows true leadership. It also shows President Biden is a truly compassionate leader.

    Leadership of course can only move so go so far in a Democracy like ours. It needs real teamwork if it's to fully succeed. That's obviously why President Biden added a challenge to his Address. Indeed, before now Congress has largely given little but lip service to both mental health and substance abuse. The president's call directing both parties come together on these issues puts everyone on notice. Hopefully it'll also place both issues in the "To Do" box.

    It's time.

    Are you battling substance abuse? Do you need help? Then give us a call. Please. We'll get you sorted. Wherever you are, whatever the substance. There's help. There's also hope. Really.

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