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Buttigieg unveils mental health plan that proposes $100B investment

By Clyde Hughes   |   Aug. 23, 2019 at 9:23 AM
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters and voters in Des Moines, Iowa, on August 10. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled a mental health care plan Friday that includes dedicating $100 billion to a community innovation grant program.

Mental health issues have made headlines in recent weeks after President Donald Trump called for more attention after shooting attacks in Texas and Ohio.

The South Bend, Ind., mayor said in a video statement Friday mental health issues have emerged in other ways, such as the U.S. opioids crisis and rising suicide rates.

"We have a mental health crisis in this country," Buttigieg said. "This is a priority for me because as mayor I see the implications of mental health everywhere I go.

"Everything from the effects that coworkers are facing, from stress in the workplace to extreme cases of suicide, or homelessness, or extreme addiction [that] have really changed the life of this city due to untreated mental health issues."

The plan calls for mental health and addiction treatment parity across insurance companies, improving access to affordable and high-quality treatment, expanding the mental health and addiction workforce, developing universal access to life-saving medication for opioid use and enhancing treatment for veterans.

It also calls for $100 billion to be set aside over 10 years for a community innovation grant program, to address how mental illness and addiction stigma is discussed, require all schools to teach mental health first aid courses, address disparities in mental health and addiction through national and community-based efforts and decriminalize mental illness and addiction through diversion, treatment, and re-entry programs.

Buttigieg's mental health plan followed that of fellow Democratic candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, whose strategy calls for community-based, cost-effective treatment and for mental health issues to be taken as seriously as physical health concerns.

Buttigieg unveiled the plan ahead of a visit Friday to New Hampshire, which will hold one of the first Democratic primaries early next year.

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