Democratic presidential candidate Seth Moulton on Tuesday unveiled his plan to address mental health coverage, detailing a proposal that would increase mental health screenings for active-duty and military veterans and establish a new National Mental Health Crisis Hotline.
The new policy proposal is personal for Moulton, an Iraq War veteran and Massachusetts congressman who has disclosed his own struggles with post-traumatic stress after his four deployments with the United States Marine Corps.
“There is still this stigma against mental health care,” Moulton said in an interview in March. “Post-traumatic stress is very real. I have had post-traumatic stress and I have a lot of friends who have had it. And I have lost two Marines in my platoon since we have been back.”
He continued: “Post traumatic stress is a great example of a mental issue that is curable. I know a lot of vets who have gotten through post-traumatic stress, including myself. So we can fix this, but we need to be investing in it and we are not.”
Moulton’s policy rollout comes as he prepares to embark on a multi-day veterans mental health tour, starting with an event Tuesday in Lynn, Massachusetts. Moulton will then travel to Columbia, South Carolina on Wednesday for a veteran’s town hall and then will visited a American Legion hall for a veterans town hall in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Moulton’s plan would make mental health check-ups standard for active-duty military and veterans, making mental health checks the same as physicals. To help more veterans suffering with PTS, Moulton would also double the number of Defense Department health professionals and boost the department’s budget for helping those struggling with mental health issues by $500 million.
But while the military factors heavily into his plan, Moulton wanted to make clear that mental health is not something that just affects those who served in the military.
“We must recognize that mental health matters to everyone. We all have personally dealt with mental health challenges, or have a family member, friend, or co-worker who has dealt with them, whether we know it or not,” Moulton said in his plan, noting that high schoolers are particularly at risk for mental health issues.
That’s why his plan would also fund yearly mental health screenings for every high schooler in the United States and introduce mental health training – like mindfulness and yoga – “into the physical education curriculum of high schools in America.”
The plan would also create a National Mental Health Crisis Hotline, turning the number 511 on all phones into a hotline that “will help more individuals, both veterans and civilians, get the help they need before it is too late.”
“Mental health should become a routine part of health care in America: for our troops, our veterans – for everybody,” Moulton said in his plan. “Veterans across the country are opening up about our post-traumatic stress and mental health challenges because it is vital that we tell our stories, end the stigma around these issues, and make sure everyone gets the support they need. And it should be a model for everyone else.”