Joe Biden

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Improves Access and Care for Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions

May 20, 2021

Even before the pandemic uprooted our daily lives, nearly one in five Americans were experiencing a mental health or substance use condition. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health conditions with unprecedented social isolation, historic job loss, widespread sickness, persistent food instability, and unfathomable grief. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that one-third of adults report experiencing anxiety and depression. While we are making critical progress in addressing COVID-19 and reopening safely, we know that addressing the burden of mental health and substance use in the US requires continued action. Concerning trends underscore the urgency: suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and overdose deaths are on the rise with over 90,000 deaths in the twelve-month period ending in September 2020.

Effective treatments for mental health and substance use conditions are available, and recovery is achievable. However, for far too long, Americans have faced barriers navigating our mental health care system. Underlying attitudes about mental health and substance use conditions only make it more difficult to find timely help. We must eliminate these barriers and expand access to the full continuum of prevention, treatment, and recovery services. At the same time, we know that there are many groups that face unique and increased risks. We must close disparities in access and outcomes, eliminate bias and discrimination, and address the systemic barriers, including racism, that have contributed to historic inequities.

All Americans deserve services that are timely, affordable, accessible, equitable, and high-quality. These are our family members, friends, neighbors, school peers, and coworkers. As a nation, we can and must do better.

The Biden-Harris Administration has taken the following initial actions to strengthen access to mental health and substance use care in the United States. Specifically, the Administration has:

Expanded Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care.

  • Access to coverage is the first step to improving care for mental health and substance use conditions, which is why the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to strengthening the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This historic law has expanded coverage to over 20 million Americans and ensured treatment for mental health and substance use conditions is an essential benefit afforded to everyone with coverage.
  • On February 15th, the Biden-Harris Administration opened for a special enrollment period (SEP) through August 15 to ensure people who need health insurance can sign up for it. As of May 11th, more than one million Americans have enrolled in coverage, aided by provisions in the American Rescue Plan that make it more affordable for new and existing consumers to purchase and use plans on the ACA Marketplace.
  • For example, through the American Rescue Plan, the Biden-Harris Administration made coverage even more affordable by lowering premiums for individuals buying coverage on their own by $50 per person, per month, and now 4 out of 5 people can buy a plan for less than $10 a month.

Increased Investments in Community-based Mental Health and Substance Use Care.

  • The American Rescue Plan increased investments in mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery services. This includes an increase of $3 billion for Mental Health and Substance Use Block Grant Programs, delivering resources to states and local communities to provide services like screening, outpatient treatment, as well as emergency services.
  • To address the needs of our frontline workers, the American Rescue Plan included $1.4 billion to support the mental health and substance use needs of health care professionals, paraprofessionals, public safety officers and other first responders. These funds will help to address burnout and ensure access to evidence-based services.
  • The American Rescue Plan is also delivering $80 million to provide community-based funding for local services for substance use and behavioral health needs and $420 million to support the expansion of certified community behavioral health clinics.
  • Additionally, the American Rescue Plan includes an option for states to use Medicaid funding to provide community-based crisis intervention services for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

Addressed Youth Mental Health with Critical Investments in the American Rescue Plan.

  • Our children and youth have been particularly impacted this past year. That is why the American Rescue Plan provided $122 billion in relief funds for schools to help them re-open safely and address the needs of students. These funds can also be used to hire school psychologists, counselors and make other investments that address the mental health needs of students. The American Rescue Plan also included $30 million for Project AWARE, a grant program for state education agencies to advance wellness and resiliency for youth in school-based settings.
  • The American Rescue Plan also provided $80 million for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access program, which promotes integration of behavioral health into pediatric primary care settings, and directed $20 million to support youth suicide prevention.
  • In addition, the American Rescue Plan provides $10 million to support the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which raises the standard of care and improves access to services for traumatized children, their families, and their communities.

Expanded Access to Medication-assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.

  • To increase access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, the Department of Health and Human Services issued new guidelines to reduce burdens on providers who wish to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders in outpatient settings.

This is only the beginning. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue efforts designed to improve mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery. We are committed to expanding access to affordable, quality services across the continuum of prevention, treatment and recovery, combatting the opioid crisis, and eliminating the stigmatization of those who need help.

To help us get there, the President Biden's FY22 discretionary budget called for more than doubling the funding to address mental health and substance use, including additional resources to support those involved in the criminal justice system, resources to partner mental health providers with law enforcement, and funds to expand suicide prevention.

Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Improves Access and Care for Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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