What to know about Biden's mental health plan - freetxp

What to know about Biden’s mental health plan

“The fact that it exists at all is noteworthy, because we haven’t had a mental health agenda coming from the White House since 1979,” said Insel, author of the book “Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Mental Health.So this is a long time coming, and it’s exciting to see both the scope and scape of what the White House is proposing.”

Large parts of the plan hinge on congressional approval, Insel said. Considering the breadth of the problem, he said, he was optimism Congress will fund at least some of the president’s initiatives. But it’s not guaranteed.

“I think in this case there’s a lot of energy in Congress, particularly in the Senate, to do more,” he said.

Finding affordable and accessible mental health care has been a challenge for years, and the pandemic exacerbated the issues. In 2019, about one in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one in five reported having a mental illness, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Mental health care can be even less accessible for Black and Latino communities: In 2018, almost 70 percent of Black and 67 percent of Hispanic adults did not receive treatment for their conditions, compared with 57 of the overall US population, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Biden’s plan seeks to address many of these issues. Here is what he is proposing.

1. Connecting people with care

The plan includes funding for mental health care in places like schools, colleges, libraries, and primary care physicians’ offices. It would also redesign mentalhealth.gov as a website where people can find mental health services, and would make grants for community mental health clinics permanent.

Shamila Khan, a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Multicultural Mental Health at Boston Medical Center, said she would like to see more providers in the community and faith-based settings, too.

“I really appreciated the focus on the BIPOC Black and brown communities, but I think the marginalized communities are larger,” Khan said. “I would love to see it being extended beyond that, into other aspects of people’s identities,” like religion, disability status, and more.

2. Training more practitioners

Biden’s proposed budget includes $700 million for programs to train new mental health and substance use disorder clinicians, as well as scholarships and loan repayments. But Congress is not required to include those items in any budget it eventually passes. The federal Department of Health and Human Services will have $225 million to award training programs for paraprofessionals, who can support medical providers in underserved communities.

Cali-Ryan Collin, a professor of social work at Simmons University and associate director of clinical training for The Center for Innovation in Behavioral Health Education & Research, said these grants can help, but often don’t go far enough.

“What I hear from students is that they love this work; they’re incredibly invested,” Collin said. “But they also need to pay back their student loans. Their costs of living are changing. There are so many demands on them.”

3. Increasing crisis care

Boston, like other cities, has its share of cases in which a person who needed mental health care in a crisis situation was shot and killed by police officers called to the scene: Terrence Coleman, killed in 2018; Juston Root, killed in early 2020; and others. The Biden administration proposed a national network of crisis centers, both local and national, which people will be able to reach by calling or texting 988 this summer, instead of calling police at 911. The American Rescue Plan already provided $180 million for crisis calls and mobile crisis response units, and the Biden administration suggested $700 million more to increase staffing.

The plan also calls for making same-day care more accessible for military veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

4. Making sure insurance covers mental health and substance use treatments

The plan includes a proposal that “all health plans cover robust behavioral health services with an adequate network of providers,” and suggests insurance providers cover up to three behavioral health visits a year without co-pays.

The plan also includes making sure insurance companies cover remote telehealth appointments, which were a vital tool for people seeking mental health and substance use care during the pandemic and remain popular as the viruss, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The plan would encourage Federal Employees Health Benefits Program carriers to reimburse providers for telehealth services, and to eliminate or lower co-pays for patients.


Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com or at 617-929-2043.

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