President Joe Biden will announce his strategy to address the mental health crisis during the State of the Union address Tuesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the nation’s mental health and exacerbated the system’s shortcomings. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted in January and February, 31.5% of U.S. adults reported anxiety or depression symptoms. The rates were highest among people aged 18-39, females, transgender people, gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and individuals with disabilities, according to the CDC findings.
Here are five things to know about Biden’s plan:
1. Renewed commitment to mental health parity. Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget, expected later this month, will strengthen insurance network adequacy standards to enhance access to behavioral health professionals and require insurers to cover three visits a year without cost-sharing. This will build on the administration’s ongoing efforts, including pending regulations stemming from existing mental health parity laws and stepped up enforcement against insurance companies not complying with those statutes.
2. Better integration of behavioral and physical health. Biden will propose doubling the budget for programs that link primary care and behavioral health. The Health and Human Services Department will test behavioral health integration payment models and authorize Medicaid to pay for inter-professional consultations so primary care providers can coordinate with mental health specialists on patient care.
3. Bolstering the mental health workforce. The budget will call for $700 million to fund training, scholarships and loan repayment programs for clinicians committed to working in rural and underserved communities. Biden also will propose additional funds to develop provider capacity and support mental health transformation. The White House will ask Congress to make the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics program permanent and to extend funding for Community Mental Health Centers. Later this year, HHS will distribute more than $225 million for training programs to build the workforce in underserved areas and continue grant programs to support burnout prevention.
4. Increased telehealth accessibility. Biden will request legislation to promote insurance coverage of remote behavioral health services, including allowing providers to virtually practice across state lines. The Office of Personnel Management will encourage carriers covering federal employees to boost reimbursements and reduce out-of-pocket costs for telehealth visits with behavioral health professionals.
5. Continued focus on youth mental health. The administration plans a series of initiatives to improve youth mental health, including removing barriers for providers to get Medicaid reimbursement. The 2023 budget will recommend $1 billion to help schools hire more mental health staff, propose more than $70 million for infant and early childhood mental health programs, and call for more funding for schools that provide wrap-around services including mental health support to families. Biden will request that Congress ban excessive data collection on and targeted online advertising for children.