Biden State of the Union Address on Health Initiatives

President Joe Biden will use his second State of the Union address Tuesday night to announce a policy that expands existing mental health strategies for patients and healthcare professionals.

The president is expected to announce a plan by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to offer health care organizations mental health resources to support workers. The Department of Health and Human Services also plans to increase funding to hire mental health professionals from historically black colleges and universities.

The administration cited the need for these initiatives in part because almost 54% of nurses and doctors experience burnout. The White House fact sheet, released Tuesday ahead of the speech, also cited a mental health workforce shortage.

The president will also propose rules this spring to require health plans to pay mental health providers on par with other doctors, while improving access to care.

“We know that too many insurance companies don’t follow the rules and they put up barriers to accessing patients who shouldn’t be there and make it take more than a decade on average for people. access mental health care after they first develop symptoms,” Kristen Linke Young, deputy assistant to the president for health and veterans, said in a phone call Tuesday.

Biden will also call on HHS to improve its 988 suicide prevention hotline, which launched last year. HHS will hire more trained colleagues, first responders, licensed counselors and psychologists, expand its mobile intervention services, and prioritize mental health research. Biden also directed the department to expand telehealth services by tripling its resources for interstate license reciprocity for mental health services offered across states.

Under Biden’s directive, the Department of Veterans Affairs will offer a new nationwide network of behavioral health clinicians to those enrolled in the VA health care system. The administration also intends to add 350 mental health professionals to Virginia health centers across the country over the next seven years.

The President will also expand the Cancer Moonshot initiative to halve cancer deaths within 25 years. The administration will push for health plans to cover cancer navigation services that help patients and their families get screened, diagnosed, and treated. He also wants Congress to reauthorize the National Cancer Act to further the country’s investment in cancer research, and aims to build clinical trial networks, create new data systems, and encourage information sharing.

In 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 testing nursing homes to determine whether residents on antipsychotics were correctly diagnosed with schizophrenia. In September, the agency also launched a public database that tracks the ownership of 15,000 qualified healthcare facilities.

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