Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand released a plan on Tuesday to expand mental health coverage in the United States.
The plan, which labels mental health a “growing crisis in our country,” looks to combat the issue by using federal funds to expand Community Health Centers and behavioral health clinics, expand coverage of non-traditional mental health treatments and enacting federal “safeguards” to ensure that providers was fully reimbursed for treatment.
The New York senator’s plan particularly looks to expand coverage and opportunities for three groups: People of color, students and people who live in rural America.
Mental health is a key issue for voters in 2020, and has featured prominently in the political discourse following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Presidential candidates are often asked about it during town halls, and Gillibrand is not the first candidate to release a mental health plan – candidates like Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and former Rep. John Delaney, among others, have laid out proposals to tackle the issue.
“Transcending race, gender, age, religion, or life experience, mental health is a growing crisis in our country — and it has gone without sufficient attention, care or resources for too long,” Gillibrand writes in a Medium post about the plan. “Antiquated stigma and systemic failures have kept millions of Americans from sharing their suffering with others, forcing them to struggle quietly.”
She adds: “It’s all too clear that America is facing a mental health crisis, and it demands more than attention from our leaders — we need a real plan.”
In order to expand access to mental health service, Gillibrand’s plan relies heavily on what she is calling the “robust and aggressive expansion” of Community Health Centers and Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.
But Gillibrand also says in the plan that she, as president, would “embrace non-traditional treatment and prevention strategies such as the peer education model, which is cost-effective, and connects those seeking treatment with a peer who understands their background and brings with them significant credibility.”
In order to reach young people, Gillibrand pledges to expand School-Based Health Centers, primary care clinics in schools, and as a way to reach rural Americans, Gillibrand pledges to improve the National Health Service Corps, a program that places health care professionals in largely rural areas, and increase investment in the Office of Telehealth “to make health care more accessible for all and to give people privacy as they receive treatment.”
“I will make sure everyone across the country knows and sees that mental health care is real health care,” Gillibrand writes. “I will increase access to care, fight stigma and change the way people perceive mental health care, and then provide resources for communities to invest in solutions that are already working.”