President Biden Announces New Initiatives for Mental Health Strategy
  • Today's announcement builds upon the Biden administration's National Mental Health Strategy released in March 2022.
  • The new initiatives seek to strengthen provider capacity, access to mental health services, and healthy communities.
  • As a portion of the Strategy, HHS is launching the Mental Health Crisis Response Partnership Pilot Program.
Today, the Biden administration announced several new initiatives aimed at advancing the White House’s Mental Health Strategy initially released earlier this year (TRP analysis). In its March 2022 announcement, the Biden administration outlined its plan to address mental health concerns in the U.S., which included policies to: (1) strengthen provider capacity; (2) increase access to mental health services; and (3) foster healthy communities, among other items. The initiatives announced today build upon these three pillars, additionally creating new funding opportunities, pilot programs, and professional openings within several federal agencies to advance the goals of the mental health strategy.  

  • Background. Today’s announcement coincides with congressional efforts in several committees — notably the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) and Finance Committees, and House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees — to parse together a comprehensive mental health package. Notably, the Senate Finance Committee recently unveiled a bipartisan discussion draft (press release) of tele-mental health legislation as a part of the committee’s broader legislative effort to improve mental health care for Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries. This discussion draft, coupled with broader congressional efforts as well as the Biden administration’s renewed push for mental health reform, signal the likelihood of continued improvements to mental and behavioral health care in the U.S.  

Additional initiatives put forth in today’s announcement include:  

  • Provider Capacity — The Biden administration noted that the U.S. is experiencing a behavioral health care worker shortage compounded by “fragmentation and inconsistency” within the behavioral health care system. To address this, the White House plans to support several additional programs, including:  
  • Mental Health of Frontline Health Care Workers — To address burnout within the health care workforce, the Administration — through the U.S. Surgeon General — issued an Advisory on Health Worker Burnout. The first of its kind, this advisory provides whole-of-society recommendations aimed at advancing the well-being of health care workers.  

  • Behavioral Health Paraprofessional Training — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends to hire 277 Peer Specialists to provide support to veterans with substance use disorder (SUD). Further, the Department of Defense (DOD) will provide an additional 2,500 personnel over a period of six years to address risks associated with mental health and SUD.  

  • Crisis Care and Suicide Prevention Infrastructure — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is launching the Mental Health Crisis Response Partnership Pilot Program, designed to bolster access to mobile crisis services in areas demonstrating a “high need” for such services. With regard to service members, DOD is establishing standardized procedures to advance the identification, treatment, and tracking of patients who demonstrate risk of suicide and will additionally train its military health providers in such procedures.  

  • Long-Term Care Facilities — HHS announced earlier this month the availability of $15 million in funding to establish a Center of Excellence for Building Capacity in Nursing Facilities to Care for Residents with Behavioral Health Conditions. The White House noted that the funding is aimed at building the capacity of long-term care facilities to deliver behavioral health care by improving mental health literacy and decreasing stigmatization among staff.  

  • National Caregiving Strategy — HHS’ Administration for Community Living, in conjunction with Raise Family Caregiving and Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, will develop a National Caregiving Strategy containing recommendations to support family caregivers, specifically in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once complete, the report is to be submitted to Congress as a formal recommendation.  

  • Access to Services — The White House’s statement highlights the difficulties faced when accessing mental health care. The administration stressed the need for insurance coverage of SUD care and the integration of mental health services in a manner that reduces stigmatization and access barriers. To address these concerns, the updated mental health strategy will address: 
  • Funding to Advance Care for Certain Populations — HHS announced a roughly $3.5 million, five-year grant opportunity to prop up a new Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Center of Excellence. The Center would seek to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health care whilst simultaneously providing training to elucidate the mental health impacts of hate and unconscious bias on the AANHPI population.  

  • Barriers to Care Among Service Members — The DOD is revising current policy regarding requirements for notifying military personnel when service members access mental health or SUD care as a means to reduce the potential for negative impacts on military career progression.  

  • Mental Health in Education Settings — The Department of Education (DOE) issued guidance to aid colleges and universities in navigating the use of American Rescue Plan funds to provide mental health and SUD services on campus. The White House notes that such funds may be dedicated to hiring mental health professionals, providing peer support programs, and creating student-staffed crisis hotlines, among other items.  

  • Federal Government Employees — The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), through the redesigned Employee Assistance Programs, will seek to ensure that the behavioral health needs of federal agency employees are met whilst simultaneously disseminating best practices to improve federal workplace mental health. 

  • Foster Healthy Communities — The Biden administration outlines several factors that impact mental health, calling for coordinated prevention efforts across settings. This month, the Biden Administration is taking new actions that will support: 
  • Training for Social and Human Services Professionals — Via a series of initiatives, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to improve mental health literacy among its partners and employers. Specifically, the agency is: (1) providing certain public-facing employees with access to Mental Health First Aid Training; (2) integrating mental health messaging into its programs; and (3) supporting efforts to train 4-H volunteers and participants in mental health-related strategies.  

  • Training for Tribal Law Enforcement — The Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, within the Department of Interior, is creating a Mental Health Crisis Instructor Training Program and a Resiliency Initiative to train tribal law enforcement personnel in mental health strategies for both the communities they serve as well as their colleagues.  

  • School-Based Supports in Certain Communities — The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education is launching a Social and Emotional Learning Initiative for educators and staff at schools serving Native communities in order to bolster access to culturally relevant social and emotional learning supports. 

  • Innovation in Recovery Support Models — HHS, through the Behavioral Health Recovery Innovation Challenge, is distributing $400,000 in awards to ten peer-run and community-based groups that implement innovative programs that advance recovery from SUD.  

  • Veteran Financial Security — The VA is launching the National Center for Veterans Financial Empowerment in order to improve financial security among veterans, which the White House notes has been associated with an increased risk of suicide.  

  • Workplace Rights — To enforce the workplace rights of the mentally ill, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is: (1) engaging with mental health providers to ensure that protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act are carried out; and (2) increasing the accessibility of its technical assistance and guidance documents surrounding mental health.