Ambassador Susan E. Rice Remarks to Press on Mental Health Day of Action
As Prepared For Delivery:
Thank you, Kelly [Scully], and hello, everyone.
America is in a mental health crisis. We already had a major challenge on our hands—then, the pandemic hit. The increased isolation, burnout, and trauma of COVID-19 have contributed to increased depression and anxiety, affecting as many as 2 in 5 adults.
The nation’s mental health crisis is even more acute among young Americans. I see the urgency of tackling our youth mental health crisis not only as a White House official, but also as the mother of two young adults. In 2021, 44% of high school students reported persistent sadness or hopelessness, including more than half of high school girls. Tragically, 13% of high school girls and 7% of boys attempted suicide in 2021.
This is simply unacceptable. President Biden believes mental health is health. Period. And, to ensure all Americans can get the care they deserve and help our nation recover, he released a comprehensive mental health strategy in March 2022 that is transforming how we understand and address mental health. Most importantly, it will help connect more Americans to competent and compassionate care in ways that are convenient, cheaper, and covered by their insurance.
Over the last year, the Biden-Harris Administration has made historic investments in expanding access to mental health and substance use services. These investments are critical, but this crisis demands further action.
Tomorrow—which is National Mental Health Day of Action—and throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, the President is continuing to deliver on his commitment to transform mental health care in this country, especially for our youth.
Last year, the President directed the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education to find ways to make it easier for schools to get paid for the health care services, including mental health services, that they provide to students. Last summer, HHS took a great first step—issuing guidance to encourage states expand such services in schools. Still, President Biden sought more. He encouraged us to think bigger, and to act more boldly.
So today, I am pleased to share two key actions that the Departments are taking to cut unnecessary red tape for schools so it’s easier for them to deliver critical health care to students—and get paid for it. Tomorrow, the Department of Education will propose a new rule that would streamline Medicaid billing permissions for schools, while HHS will issue additional guidance with new, easier Medicaid billing steps.
These actions will make it easier for schools to get the Medicaid funding they need. To hire the people they need. To provide the care their students need. It means more children will have better access to preventive care like mental health assessments and counseling, as well as physical health care services like vaccines and hearing and vision screenings.
What’s more, thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, ED just announced that it is providing funds to 35 states to help them hire more than more than 14,000 new mental health professionals in U.S. schools— including school psychologists, counselors, and social workers. In addition, ED and HHS will launch new technical assistance centers to help states, schools, and stakeholders strengthen their school-based health programs, especially for mental health. And HHS is providing an additional $200 million to continue to scale up operations at 988—the 24/7 confidential call/text/chat line—so that more Americans in crisis have somewhere to go.
Taken together, these actions will help save lives. Investing in kids’ mental health today will pay dividends down the line—for students, their families, and America as a whole.
These announcements are delivering on President’s commitment to create a mental health system that works for everyone and to connect Americans to the mental health care they deserve. We have made great progress, and we will continue to do all we can to tackle our nation’s mental health crisis. With that, my colleagues at the Domestic Policy Council are happy to take your questions. Thank you.