We asked Senator Amy Klobuchar to get on the record about mental health and addiction. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the second leading cause of death for American youth. Every day, 20 Veterans die by suicide. What steps will you take to prevent suicide?
Our country has experienced a 30% increase in suicides in just fifteen years. As part of her plan to combat addiction and prioritize mental health, Senator Klobuchar will increase investments in state and local suicide prevention initiatives, including a focus on veterans, farmers, LGBTQ and tribal communities. To expand the tools and data available in this fight, Senator Klobuchar will invest in suicide prevention programs, expanded resources and health services that address suicide among students and share information with parents, mental health research and data reporting.
2. Every hour, eight people in America die of drug overdose, from opioids and increasingly from other drugs as well. What would your administration do to turn the tide on the addiction crisis?
As one of her first major policy proposals as candidate for President, Senator Klobuchar released a plan to combat substance use disorder and prioritize mental health, including launching new prevention and early intervention initiatives, expanding access to treatment and giving Americans a path to sustainable recovery.
Opioid addiction can begin with the use of appropriately prescribed pain medications. That’s why Senator Klobuchar will prevent doctor shopping by supporting the mandated use by doctors and pharmacists of prescription drug monitoring programs, which is a bill she leads in the Senate. She will also make a major investment into research and development of pain alternatives to opioids. And to build upon successful federal and local drug take-back programs, Senator Klobuchar will launch a national effort to create additional safe and responsible ways to dispose of unused prescription medications and controlled substances in every urban and rural community. Additionally, Senator Klobuchar will work with law enforcement to help stop dangerous synthetic opioids from being shipped from foreign countries to the United States.
While opioid use has skyrocketed, other drugs continue to wreak havoc on communities across the country. The rate of cocaine-related overdose deaths among black Americans is as high as that for opioids among white Americans. Funding for prevention and early identification of substance use disorders — including the use of cocaine and methamphetamine — will be driven by needs in the hardest hit communities.
To pay for her plan, Senator Klobuchar will hold opioid manufacturers responsible for their role in the opioid crisis. She will place a 2-cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill to be paid by the manufacturer or importer, establishing a permanent revenue stream that will be used to provide and expand access to substance use and mental health treatment.
3. Rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal behavior are all rising among our teens and young adults, but the time from first symptoms (usually around age fourteen) to treatment continues to be almost a decade for many people. What would you do to make sure that more individuals get the help they need when they first need it?
Senator Klobuchar will launch a nation-wide campaign to support prevention and early intervention strategies for people with substance use disorders, alcoholism and mental health illnesses. She will expand funding for states and localities to detect and respond to mental health conditions, including mental health programming and resources for schools and school counselors, as well as training for pediatricians and primary care physicians. She will also lead new initiatives focused on the risks of alcohol and alcohol addiction and support school and community drug early-intervention programs.
4. Our nation is experiencing a shortage of mental health and addiction care providers—including both traditional mental health professionals and paraprofessionals like certified peer support specialists and recovery coaches—and other barriers to treatment, especially in rural and underserved areas. What is your position on improving access to mental health and addiction care for these communities?
Senator Klobuchar believes that combating mental health conditions and substance use disorders requires a workforce with the training to provide the highest level of care. Her plan will support improved training for mental health and substance use health professionals, including training for health care professionals to administer medication-assisted treatment.
Mental health and addiction services are often lacking in rural and urban communities where accessibility, availability, affordability and acceptability may be limited. For example, 65 percent of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychiatrist and almost half of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychologist. Senator Klobuchar will expand access to mental health and substance use care, including support for clinics and community-based services, as well as technical support and telehealth services. She will also focus on recruitment, retention, training and workplace protections for the mental health and substance use health care workforce in rural areas and our hardest hit communities.
5. For many people, the initial point of care for their mental health condition or substance use disorder begins with the criminal justice system. What is your plan to advance crisis intervention services in the community while also providing treatment and alternatives to incarceration for those already involved in the criminal justice system?
Senator Klobuchar believes we must prioritize mental health and substance use treatment over jail for non-violent offenders. As the former Hennepin County Attorney, she was committed to helping people struggling with addiction stay out of the criminal justice system. She worked to provide specialized supports and services for those with mental illnesses and severe chemical dependency by building stronger collaboration among drug court staff, probation officers, case managers and various treatment and social service providers. In the Senate, she has advocated for expanding drug courts and reducing racial disparities in sentencing. As President, she will increase federal support for drug courts, mental health courts and treatment alternatives to incarceration and expand wraparound services and regular follow-ups.
Additionally, about 1 in 10 police calls involve someone who has a mental illness, and yet many police officers do not have the training they need to handle these calls or respond in a crisis situation. Senator Klobuchar will work with local and state authorities to ensure that crisis intervention is a core part of law enforcement officer training, and expand crisis intervention training to public health departments, first responders and school personnel. She will also provide funding for state and local agencies to equip first responders with life-saving naloxone, an effort she led as one of the four original sponsors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. She will also direct the federal government to negotiate a discounted price for naloxone and promote law enforcement efforts to follow up with people and direct them to harm reduction services. In addition, Senator Klobuchar will increase access to medication-assisted treatment in federal prisons and expand treatment in state and local prisons.
6. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (Federal Parity Law) was enacted in 2008, yet some insurers continue to illegally deny coverage of care for mental health and addiction treatment services. How will you ensure enforcement of the Federal Parity Law?
Mental health is as important as physical health and Senator Klobuchar’s plan will build a health care system that integrates mental and physical health care. She will protect mental health and substance use coverage as essential health care benefits and enforce federal laws like the Affordable Care Act and the Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity Act that she helped pass to ensure health insurance companies cover all mental illnesses and substance use disorders in the same way they do physical illnesses. In the Senate, she also introduced and passed the bipartisan Anna Westin Act, which increases awareness and early detection of eating disorders and requires insurers to cover residential treatment.
7. How will you fulfill the intent of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, a law that meant to ensure that people have access to mental health and developmental disability care within their communities rather than in institutions?
As part of her plan, Senator Klobuchar will make major investments in increasing access to community-based services, telehealth and a fully integrated health system. She is also committed to promoting remote monitoring technology and telehealth services in Medicare and other programs that expand access to quality home care and emergency hospital services in rural areas.
8. Poverty is associated with very poor outcomes for people with mental health or substance use disorders, primarily due to lack of secure housing and employment opportunities. What will you do to ensure that income is not a barrier to recovery?
For those recovering from addiction, including formerly incarcerated people, a job can support recovery, provide income and a sense of purpose. Yet the unemployment rate among those who are recovering is more than twice the national rate. Senator Klobuchar will invest in training, employment and social services that connect people recovering from substance use disorders to housing and economic opportunity. In addition, she will significantly expand access to transitional or supportive housing and homeless shelters that can help people with mental health issues and prevent homelessness. She will also invest in existing and new recovery community organizations that meet the ongoing needs of people as they return to work, school and their families.
9. People of color, immigrants, Veterans, people living in poverty, people who identify as LGBTQ+, and others have unique needs and challenges as it relates to mental health and addiction. What will you do to ensure that these and other underserved groups have access to the mental health and addiction resources and supports that they need?
Significant and persistent disparities exist in health outcomes for minority populations in the United States, including when it comes to mental health and addiction. Senator Klobuchar will focus prevention and early intervention initiatives, including support for state and local suicide prevention initiatives, on communities that are often most at risk. She is also committed to further expanding investments in VA telehealth to ensure rural veterans have access to medical professionals, especially for mental health services.
10. Given that overdoses and suicides are decreasing US life expectancy, evidence-based treatment options are critical, but treatment options are still limited. What role do you see research playing in improving mental health and addiction treatments?
Research is critical to our success not only in understanding the dynamics of addiction and mental illness, but also in how to treat it. Despite significant strides in research, there are still gaps in our understanding of the interrelation between the brain and substance use disorders. Senator Klobuchar will make a dramatic federal investment in the National Institutes of Health for research on the impact of substance use on the brain and body and the development of safe treatments. She will also invest in public health surveillance and biomedical research to help develop the most effective substance use treatments and make a major investment into research and development of pain alternatives to opioids.
11. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the mental health and addiction community?
Senator Klobuchar’s dad struggled with alcoholism and she saw the toll that substance use disorders can take on families and communities. Her dad climbed the highest mountains but also sank to the lowest valleys because of his battle with alcoholism. He had three DWIs and after the third he got real treatment and was, in his own words, “pursued by grace.” Faith, treatment, friends, family and the community of people who stood by him made all the difference. As President, she will take action with a $100 billion plan so that everyone has the right — and the opportunity — to be pursued by grace and receive effective, professional treatment and help.