Second Gentleman Pool Reports of March 10, 2023

March 10, 2023

Pool Reports by Maya Kaufman, POLITICO

Sent: Reports:
March 10, 2023

SGOTUS Pool Report: mental health roundtable

Pool report:

SGOTUS arrived in Harlem at the Pediatrics 2000 open access clinic just before 11 AM for a roundtable on mental health and behavioral health access and equity in the Latino community with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and representatives of physician-led network SOMOS Community Care, including board chairman Dr. Ramon Tallaj, cofounder Henry R. Muñoz III and chief medical officer Dr. Yomaris Peña. Other roundtable participants included internal medicine and emergency physician Dr. Mauricio González Arias, the actor J. Harrison Ghee, Columbia University Irving Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Fernando Taveras and mental health activist Dior Vargas. The roundtable itself was closed to press.

In opening remarks, Dr. Tallaj, Gov. Hochul, SGOTUS and Secretary Becerra addressed an audience of about 30, which included NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. Roundtable participants were seated in front of a banner with a picture of President Biden and quote — "Advancing equity is not a one year project. It's a generational comment" — and another touting the 988 crisis hotline.

SOMOS' Dr. Tallaj switched between English and Spanish in opening remarks, thanking Secretary Becerra for taking the time to learn about SOMOS and its model of value-based care, adding, so often our community falls through the cracks, but not with you.

New York Gov. Hochul noted the mental health stigma that persists in Latino communities and recalled a roundtable she did several years ago with Latina girls discussing suicide and cultural stress as a factor. Noting the importance of culturally sensitive care to help people open up, she touted opportunities she has created more people of color to pursue careers in health care, such as a loan forgiveness program for psychiatric practitioners and scholarships for nursing students.

SGOTUS noted that he was born in Brooklyn and finds it humbling to be back in the city.

"We must change course," Emhoff said, noting a statistic that at least 1 in 4 adults had a mental illness in the past year. He says he thinks it is more than that.

Emhoff noted the effect of "unchecked" social media, specifically misinformation and meanness, on everyone because it is everywhere.

He also noted that the Latino community has faced historical barriers to care, partly due to stigma, and that suicide rates have increased.

Emhoff said he has traveled 30 states in his role to meet with people and take what they say back to the administration. He noted one visit to Columbus, Ohio, where a mental health practitioner shared a story of not recognizing symptoms of suicidality in her own daughter: "Sometimes it's right under your nose and you don't even know it's happening," he said.

Emhoff noted the two-year anniversary tomorrow of the American Rescue Plan Act and the release yesterday of President Biden's "historic" FY24 budget with investments in the behavioral health workforce and a focus on youth mental health and mental health research. He also cited an expansion of mental health benefits for people on private insurance, expanding the CDC suicide prevention initiative to all states and tribal territories, and 988 opening more Spanish-language centers.

"This whole administration has your back," Emhoff said.

HHS Secretary Becerra announces two new funding commitments:

  • $15 million to minority health fellowship program
  • $25 million for school-based health services, with applicants having to commit to providing behavioral health services to receive funding

Becerra cites a Frederick Douglass quote that building strong children is easier than fixing broken men to underscore a focus on prevention:

"We need to move away from a health care system that focuses on illness care," Becerra said. "We should have a wellness care system."

When he was a kid, Becerra says, you didn't have access to care or the issue of mental health was hushed. The attitude was, "Eres fuerte. Niños no lloran." (You are strong. Boys don't cry.) "In too many places around the country it's hushed," he says.

Becerra thanked the SGOTUS for being "everywhere" to raise the profile of events like this one and also thanked Gov. Hochul for her "tremendous" investment in mental health, a $1 billion proposal in the FY24 state budget, and how it shows her values. "What happens in New York ripples out," he notes.

On Background via a White House Official:

Today, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Governor Kathy Hochul will host a roundtable with Latino community leaders to discuss equity in mental and behavioral health access.

This event comes as the Biden-Harris Administration celebrates the two-year anniversary of the American Rescue Plan which included critical funding for mental health services. Five billion dollars from American Rescue Plan went to states and community organizations delivering mental health and substance use treatment. The American Rescue Plan also made funding available to hire more school-based mental health professionals.

Roundtable Speakers
• Dr. Ramon Tallaj, Chairman, SOMOS
• Governor Kathy Hochul, Governor of New York
• Second Gentleman of the United States, Douglas Emhoff
• Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services
Other roundtable participants
• Mr. Henry R. Munoz III, National Latin Advocate and Activist (Moderator)
• Dr. Fernando Traveras, Doctor
• Dr. Yomaris Pena, Chief Medical Officer of SOMOS Community Care
• Dior Vargas, Queer Latina Feminist Mental Health Activist
• Dr. Mauricio Gonzalez, Doctor and Influencer
• J. Harrison Ghee, Actor

Doug Emhoff, Second Gentleman Pool Reports of March 10, 2023 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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