US Elections: Candidate Unveils Plan for Mental Health
South Bend Mayor and candidate for the Democratic Nomination to become President of the United States, Pete Buttigieg released a plan to expand mental health care services and fight addiction, with the goal of preventing 1 million deaths over the next nine years.
The Buttigieg presidential campaign unveiled the new plan before the candidate kicks off a three-day campaign trip through New Hampshire, which is one of the top five states with the “highest rate of opioid-involved deaths,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Buttigieg’s policy also highlighted the racial disparity in how the crisis of deaths due to drugs, alcohol and suicide has been portrayed as “unique to middle-aged white America.”
While mental illness and addiction rates have risen significantly for this demographic, this often ignores the reality that mental illness and addiction have historically been and continue to be high, or are also rising, among people of color and other marginalized people and age groups,” according to the policy.
The policy aims to prevent 1 million “deaths of despair” by 2028, including deaths due to alcohol, other drugs and suicide. The plan would also ensure that at least 75% of people who need mental health care and addiction treatment get the care they need by the end of Buttigieg’s first term in office.
Buttigieg also proposed a 10-year, $100 billion grant program to local communities to improve mental health and addiction prevention as they see fit.
Other Democratic candidates have released their own proposals in recent months.
Deaths of despair
In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.
In the United States, alcohol kills even more people, but is receiving much less political attention, compared to the opioid overdose epidemic. Approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year are caused by alcohol in 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.
Over the past decade, young adults from the millennial generation were more likely to die from alcohol, other drugs and suicide or “deaths of despair“.
America’s Health and Well Being Trust reports through an analysis of the latest federal data:
Among 18 to 34 year olds, drug-related deaths soared 108% between 2007 and 2017, alcohol deaths were up 69%, suicides increased 35%.
The analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found the increases for these three “deaths of despair” combined were higher for millennials than for Baby Boomers and senior citizens. Heavy alcohol use seems to be contributing to a disproportionate increase in alcohol-related deaths for younger Americans.