In spring of 2016, I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Although it wasn’t a complete surprise, it had made me see the people around me a little differently- including politicians. And what a time to be alive with Trump and Clinton running against one another! So, I wanted to take a look at both presidential candidates’ policy regarding mental health. Admittedly, it’s not a sexy topic, like immigration or what offensive Trump said in the last 24-hours, but it still affects an estimated 26.2% of the American population over the age of 18. In order to have a clear understanding on what the candidates had to say about their positions, I only looked at the information listed on the candidate’s websites- not what CNN or Fox News would spin off of something they claimed during a debate.
Let’s take a look.
Click here for the link to the Donald J. Trump website on Health Care Reform.
Note, I said health care reform… not mental health. Trump obsesses over repealing the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), inhibiting the sale of insurance across state lines, allowing individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns, allow individuals to use Health Saving Accounts, require price transparency from healthcare providers, grant-block Medicaid, and to remove barriers so drug providers can compete in the market.
Trump claims, on his website, that these preliminary actions will lower the cost of healthcare for all Americans… but you know, only the “legal” ones, as Trump goes on for the next paragraph and a half about “illegal immigrants” being a burden on the healthcare system, thus driving up the prices for current citizens.
But that’s not all!
Trump’s position and future policy also consists of reducing the number of individuals who can access Medicaid and children’s Health Insurance Programs. Of course, he says that all people need is a job, and that will get the economy moving.
Finally, we come to mental health; a small, mediocre paragraph at the bottom of the webpage.
“Finally, we need to reform our mental health programs and institutions in this country. Families, without the ability to get the information needed to help those who are ailing, are too often not given the tools to help their loved ones. There are promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bipartisan support.”
That’s it. He suggests that we should have reform, and that there are already some existing pieces of legislation for reform that should receive bipartisan support. But he doesn’t say how individuals will receive this mental health support, if it will be accessible to non-citizens, individuals without insurance, or people who cannot afford care. He does not talk about mental health care accessibility in prisons or schools.
But don’t worry, folks, he’s going to make America great again, just like he says at the end of describing his exceptionally vague position on mental health programs. It’s basically the ID term he forgot to study for and is trying to make something up on his history exam.
Click here for the link to the Hillary Clinton website on Comprehensive Agenda on Mental Health.
It’s already a different world. Hillary has a comprehensive agenda on mental health- an entire policy ready to be enacted- while Trump had only the tiny paragraph. Clinton plans to support Americans living with mental health problems and illnesses by integrating healthcare systems in order to get mental health on the same level of importance of physical health.
What’s more, she has a direct plan of action that includes supporting military service members and veterans and ending drug and alcohol addiction. According to her website, Hillary’s plan will promote early diagnosis and intervention (including launching a national initiative for suicide prevention), integrate mental and physical health care systems, improve criminal justice outcomes by training law enforcement officers in crisis intervention, prioritizing mental health treatment over jail for non-violence offenders, enforce mental health parity to the full extent of the law, improve access to housing and job opportunities, and to invest in brain and behavioral research.
“The next generation must grow up knowing that mental health is a key component of overall health and there is no shame, stigma, or barrier to seeking out care.”
Now, Hillary has a lot of information on her website, so I’ll break it down into short bullets so everyone can get the gist.
Early Diagnosis and Intervention
- Increase public awareness and take action to address maternal depression, infant mental health, and trauma and stress in the lives of young children.
- Scale up efforts to help pediatric practices and schools support children facing behavioral problems.
- Help providers share information and best practices.
- Ensure that college students have access to mental health services.
Federal Support for Suicide Prevention
- Create a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan that is headed by the Surgeon General.
- Encourage evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health programs in high schools.
- Provide federal support for suicide prevention on college campuses.
- Partner with colleges and researchers to ensure that students of color and LGBT students are receiving adequate mental health coverage.
Integrate our Healthcare Systems and Expand Community-Based Treatment
- Foster integration between the medical and behavioral health care systems (including mental health and addiction services), so that high-quality treatment for behavioral health is widely available in general health care settings.
- Expand reimbursement systems for collaborative care models in Medicare and Medicaid.
- Promote the use of health information technology to foster coordination of care.
- Promote the use of peer support specialists.
- Encourage states to allow same-day billing.
- Support the creation of high-quality, comprehensive community health centers in every state.
- Launch a nationwide strategy to address the shortage of mental health providers.
Improve outcomes in the Criminal Justice System
- Dictate new resources to help train law enforcement officers in responding to encounters involving persons with mental illness, and increase support for law enforcement partnerships with mental health professionals.
- Prioritize treatment over punishment for low-level, nonviolent offenders with mental illnesses.
Enforcing Mental Health Parity
- Launch randomized audits to detect parity violations, and increase federal enforcement.
- Enforce disclosure requirements so that insurers cannot conceal their practices for denying mental health care.
- Strengthen federal monitoring of health insurer compliance with network adequacy requirements.
- Create a simple process for patients, families, and providers to report parity violations and improve federal-state coordination on parity enforcement.
Housing and Job Opportunities
- Expand community-based housing opportunities for individuals with mental illness and other disabilities.
- Expand employment opportunities for people with mental illness.
- Expand protection and advocacy support for people with mental health conditions.
Brain and Behavioral Science Research
- Significantly increase research into brain and behavioral science research.
- Develop new links with the private and nonprofit sectors.
- Commit to brain and behavioral science research based on open data.
Of course, she has statistics, facts, and other data to support how and why she will act upon all of the above positions regarding mental health care. But look at how detailed and inclusive her agenda is. I’m sure she has left out information that some readers might see more clearly than me, but it looks pretty damn good.
Well, it seems clear to me which candidate understands what mental illness and mental health conditions are and how they affect day-to-day life for individuals.
I was talking on the phone with my mother a few moments ago while I was writing this post. Her comment was “Hunter, Hillary has been running for president for 8 years now, of course she has a detailed plan. Trump knows what he wants to do, and he might help to do some reform on mental health care, but he’s just more focused on repealing Obamacare.” Say that is true, that Trump has a real plan on mental health reform… But he doesn’t seem to want anyone to know about it. I’m willing to bet that if elected, his position will not change from what is written on his website- a vague, last minute thought that doesn’t get any real attention.
So, voters, if you haven’t already done early voting, make sure you keep this in mind as you go to the polls, especially if you have a friend or family member who is affected by mental illness. Or, if you are just a good person who wants to make sure that anyone with any sort of illness is given the care they need.
(One more time for the people in the back)
Go forth, and vote.