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President Biden to Outline Approach for Addressing Nation’s Mental Health & Opioid Crises in State of the Union  

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Biden is expected to mention specific ways his administration will address America’s mental health crisis, beat its opioid overdose epidemic, and ensure parity.

In a fact sheet about the speech, “mental health” is mentioned 32 times, and “fentanyl” 23 times, signaling the Biden’s administration commitment to tackling two of the nation’s toughest domestic problems. The White House will also discuss these issues in a briefing on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m. ET. Click here to register for the webinar.

In a boost for parity, President Biden is expected to say that this administration will propose new rules this spring to ensure that insurance plans do not impose inequitable barriers to care and that mental healthcare providers are being paid by health plans on par with other healthcare professionals.
President Biden is also expected to provide details on how his administration will help expand access to mental healthcare services for all who need it, such as expanding peer support specialists for veterans; creating healthy environments for children, adolescents, and teens; and supporting the nation’s mental healthcare workforce.

The Biden administration also intends to improve the capacity of the 988 lifeline by investing in expanding the nation’s crisis care workforce; scaling mobile intervention services; and developing additional guidance on best practices in crisis response. To enhance telehealth services, HHS will triple resources dedicated to promoting interstate license reciprocity to deliver mental health services across state lines, according to the White House.

Meanwhile, Congress and the nation can expect to hear about this administration’s aggressive plans to combat the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis. News reports Tuesday quoted Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Rahul Gupta, M.D. as saying President Biden will apply a “forceful approach” for going after fentanyl and expanding public health efforts to reduce overdose deaths. Such measures will include disrupting the trafficking, distribution, and sale of fentanyl. Tonight the president is expected to announce that his administration will add 123 new, large-scale scanners at land points of entry along the nation’s Southwest border by 2026, and also lead a sustained, diplomatic push to address fentanyl and its supply chain abroad.

The president is also supposed to announce a commitment to expanding access to evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery. In the last year, the Biden administration has permitted using $50 million for local public health departments to purchase naloxone; released guidance making it easier for programs to obtain and distribute naloxone to at-risk populations; and prioritized reviewing over-the-counter naloxone applications.

President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address at 9 p.m. ET.