This month, the Biden administration released a plan for tackling the nationwide behavioral health crisis. Challenges related to behavioral health are not new, but have only worsened during the now two-year COVID-19 pandemic. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, over 40 percent of adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in a January of 2021 survey. Similarly, in a public opinion poll released by the American Psychiatric Association in May of 2021, nearly half of parents surveyed said that the pandemic has caused mental health problems for at least one of their children. In his first State of the Union address, the President outlined a plan for addressing this crisis. Since, more detailed information has been released.
The President’s plan seeks to strengthen the capacity of the behavioral health care system, while improving access to care and creating a continuum of support. It outlines the intent to accomplish this in the following ways:
- Strengthening Capacity of the Behavioral Health Care System: investing in pipeline and workforce programs and financial support (with a specific focus on expanding the workforce in rural and other underserved areas); training a range of paraprofessionals; building a national certification program for peer specialists; providing financial support to address the mental health of frontline workers; launching a national crisis response line with community-based capacity for crisis response; expanding evidence-based community mental health services; and investing in research into innovative models for mental health care, including use of technology.
- Improving Access to Behavioral Health Care: building on mental health parity and requiring all health plans to cover comprehensive behavioral health services and ensure provider network adequacy for behavioral health services; creating a preventive behavioral health benefit by requiring three visits each year without cost-sharing; enhancing funding for behavioral health integration into primary care settings and community-based settings; ensuring veterans have access to same-day mental health care through the Veterans Affairs Primary Care Mental Health Integration and Behavioral Health Interdisciplinary Program; expanding access to telehealth behavioral health care services by ensuring insurance coverage and creating learning collaboratives; increasing funding for mental health services in schools of all levels; and creating behavioral health navigation tools, including for service members and their families.
- Creating a Continuum of Support: addressing the risks inherent to children’s use of social media platforms through banning excessive data collection and targeted advertising, instituting wellness standards, ending discriminatory algorithms, and investing in research about the risks of social media; enhancing funding for early childhood and school-based behavioral health services and supports; addressing learning loss from the pandemic; increasing funding for behavioral health services in the juvenile justice system; and providing training for social services providers.
In follow-up to the national address, the Department of Health and Human Services is launching a “National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health” to hear from the public and connect with local leaders. The administration is also expected to promote investments outlined in the plan in the coming months.