President Joe Biden will use his second State of the Union address Tuesday night to announce policies that expand upon existing mental health strategies for patients and healthcare workers.
The president is expected to announce the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's plan to offer healthcare organizations mental health resources to support workers. The Health and Human Services Department also plans to expand funding to recruit mental health workers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The administration cited a need for the initiatives in part due to nearly 54% of nurses and physicians experiencing burnout. In a White House fact sheet published Tuesday in advance of the speech, it also cited a behavioral health workforce shortage.
The president also will propose rules this spring requiring health plans to pay mental health providers in line with other clinicians while improving access to care.
“We know that too many insurance companies don’t comply with the rules, and they place barriers in front of patient access that shouldn’t be there, and contribute to the fact that, on average, it takes more than a decade for people to access mental healthcare after they first begin experiencing symptoms,” Christen Linke Young, deputy assistant to the president for health and veterans affairs, said on a call with reporters Tuesday.
Biden will also call upon the HHS to improve its 988 suicide prevention hotline, which launched last year. The HHS will recruit more trained peers, first responders, licensed counselors and psychologists, grow its mobile intervention services, and prioritize mental health research. Biden is also directing the department to expand telehealth services by tripling its resources for interstate license reciprocity for mental health services offered across various states.
Under Biden's directive, the Veterans Affairs Department will offer a new nationwide network of behavioral health clinicians to those enrolled in VA healthcare. The administration also aims to add 350 mental health specialists at VA medical centers nationwide in the next seven years.
The president will also expand upon the Cancer Moonshot Initiative to cut cancer deaths in half within 25 years. The administration will push for health plans to cover cancer patient navigation services that guide patients and families through screenings, diagnoses and treatments. It also wants Congress to reauthorize the National Cancer Act to further the country’s investment in cancer research, and aims to establish clinical trial networks, create new data systems and encourage information sharing.
During last year’s address, the president announced measures to crack down on the nursing home industry. In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began auditing nursing homes to determine whether residents taking antipsychotic drugs are correctly diagnosed with schizophrenia. The agency also launched a public database in September which tracks the ownership of 15,000 skilled nursing facilities.