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Clinton Campaign Releases Mental Health Plan, Addressing It As A Standalone Issue

Dr. Christopher Beckett, CEO of Williamson Health and Wellness Center, left, tours an exam room of the facility with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Williamson, W.V., Monday, May 2, 2016.AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Dr. Christopher Beckett, CEO of Williamson Health and Wellness Center, left, tours an exam room of the facility with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Williamson, W.V., Monday, May 2, 2016.AP Photo/Paul Sancya

This morning, the Clinton campaign released a detailed agenda for addressing mental health issues in the United States. With a focus on improving veteran care, protecting mentally ill from police violence, treating drug addiction, and strengthening access to housing and jobs, the plan frames mental health care as a standalone political issue — not just a buried subhead in a health care proposal.

“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,” the statement reads.

The plan prioritizes training law enforcement to better handle conflicts involving someone with a mental illnesses. Many of these interactions have historically involved police officers deeming the actions of someone with a mental illness ‘dangerous,’ and shooting them.

A March study found that half of all police shooting victims in the United States had been living with some type of disability — including severe mental illness. And each year, 2 million jail bookings involve a person with mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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A majority of the country’s prison population, the plan adds, meets the criteria for addiction. Under a Clinton presidency, this population will face ‘specialized courts’ instead of standard jail time.

“Many of these individuals are first-time or nonviolent offenders, whose prospects for recovery and reentry would be far enhanced were they to participate in diversionary programs rather than serve time in jail,” the agenda reads.

The expansive plan includes an expansion of Medicaid and Medicare coverage, and a $5 billion investment in community health clinics. Clinton also hopes to close the gap between medical and behavior heath care systems, making sure people with mental illnesses are treated by a trained professional.

Clinton dedicates a large portion of her plan to improve suicide prevention, especially among younger people and veterans, noting that the country’s suicide rate is at its highest in thirty years. Her plan includes high school and college mental health awareness programs, with an explicit focus on students of color and LGBT students.

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The mental health of veterans, a population with a shockingly high suicide rate, has been a consistent focus in Clinton’s past political work as a senator. In her proposal, Clinton highlights an increased push for brain and behavioral health research, especially on diseases many veterans develop like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“Through it all,” the plan reads, “Hillary believes we must ensure that the resulting data and insights are widely available to researchers.”

Clinton’s opponent, GOP residential candidate Donald Trump, has yet to propose a plan geared toward mental health issues, let alone any comprehensive health care plan.