On Monday morning, Hillary Clinton dropped a substantial policy initiative on her website. This seems like a novel approach when one considers how her opponent switches courses many times on big issues — such as immigration — before detailing a formal plan. This is why we see Donald Trump’s team scrambling to clarify a stance when they probably don’t understand their boss’ true position. And all those middleman further muddy the waters.
Naturally, Clinton’s aiming to distance herself in many ways from her opponent. One easy way to do so is through a forthright policy approach, so she has detailed her sweeping mental health agenda. Overall, the plan features more holistic treatment of mental health, more caregiver resources, and better treatment options for veterans. The entire agenda includes many different sections, which are arranged in handy bulletpoint form. But the most striking aspect is that Clinton wants to bring a mental health care focus into many other policy areas where a natural overlap occurs.
Ideally, this holistic view removes the stigma commonly associated with mental illness and treats the problem as it presents naturally. Clinton begins with a 2014 statistic about 43.6 million U.S. adults experiencing mental health illness in one year, which — in turn — drains many areas of society. This type of illness may manifest differently than physical illness, but both forms cause people to be less productive; place more pressure on family units; jeopardize the safety of both the patient and the public; and in the most drastic cases, lead to suicide. The social costs of sidelining mental health treatment can be steep, and Clinton wants to favor early detection rather than treat after the fact. Here’s the bare-bones essence of the agenda:
As a down-payment on this agenda, Hillary will convene a White House Conference on Mental Health during her first year as President. Her goal is that within her time in office, Americans will no longer separate mental health from physical health when it comes to access to care or quality of treatment. The next generation must grow up knowing that mental health is a key component of overall health and there is no shame, stigma, or barriers to seeking out care.
To accomplish these goals, Clinton hopes to focus more mental health resources from birth, even when it comes to maternal depression, and ramp up when children enter school and go to college. She hopes to focus on suicide prevention at any age but apply efforts as early as possible. And most importantly, she hopes to increase cooperation between general health practitioners and mental health professionals. One goal of this team-based approach would be to streamline veterans’ services and make sure they’re receiving all the care they deserve after they serve their country, including for PTSD-related afflictions.
Naturally, much of the agenda involves a substantial tax-revenue investment in health care. She wants to streamline billing processes and free up money that gets lost in red-tape processes, which would allow more money to be diverted to scholarships for mental health professionals. She’d also like to pull in law enforcement for further training in crisis intervention (they’re currently only required to receive eight hours of training in the field) and favor treatment for some low-level offenders rather than lengthy prison sentences.
The plan hits hardest with the realization that Clinton’s team wants to extend mental health awareness to all areas of life, including housing and employment opportunities, along with funding brain and behavioral research. Despite the plan’s detail, however, Clinton doesn’t reveal how much the agenda would cost or how she plans to fund it.
For what it’s worth, Trump also has a very general health care summary on his website, which mainly discusses reducing costs rather than increasing quality or level of access. He only devotes three sentences to mental health care and mostly says it needs “reform.” Perhaps in the coming months, he’ll reveal a full-on agenda as well.