According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, an estimated 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — roughly one in four adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. Federal data shows that suicide rates are the highest they’ve been since WWII. And a 2018 study sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania shows that entire Black communities suffer trauma in the aftermath of police shootings. These are just some of the alarming statistics that have led Democratic hopeful Kamala Harris to declare that “In 2020, mental health care justice is on the ballot.”
On Monday in Berkeley County, South Carolina, Harris is unveiling a new plan centered on providing “mental health on demand” and making it accessible to all Americans, whenever and wherever they need it. The California senator is getting help from county native “Charlamagne tha God” who acts as co-host of the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club” and is the author of Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me, released last year.
“We have failed when it comes to policy solutions for Americans struggling with mental health. Too often we only focus on health care from the neck down, and we need to ensure we are addressing health care from the neck up,” says Harris in a press release shared with ESSENCE. “My plan will deliver mental health care on demand and get care for all Americans who need it by removing obstacles like high copays and deductibles, providing direct access to providers via telemedicine, and investing research dollars into public health challenges facing our veterans.”
Harris plans to cover treatment through her Medicare for All plan. Patients will be given direct access to health care providers by phone or video, and won’t be burdened with a deductible or copay. Harris’s campaign notes in a release that in South Carolina, more than half of the adults coping with mental illness are not receiving treatment. The state ranks near the bottom for providing access to mental health services.
For a country that is in “a mental health care crisis” according to Harris, more needs to be done. The presidential candidate says she will focus federal funding on research, expand coverage of and access to related services, increase access to hospitals, housing, and other care facilities, while also ending the “mental health illness to jail pipeline” and making sure mental illness is treated early.