Democratic Presidential Candidates Klobuchar and Delaney Have Released Plans That Address Mental Health, Substance Abuse

Belatina Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In National Forum On Wages Working People
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota and 2020 presidential candidate, speaks during the National Forum on Wages and Working People in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The forum provided an opportunity for thought leaders to share concrete plans to rebalance our economy and democracy. Photographer: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg

Senator Elizabeth Warren isn’t the only Democratic presidential nominee to announce ambitious, progressive campaign promises that address some of the country’s most pressing issues. Last week, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar released her $100 billion plan to improve treatment options and expand accessibility for Americans who suffer from mental illness and struggle with substance abuse. The announcement of her plan comes at the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month.

“[At] almost every single [town hall meeting], people either ask about addiction or they ask about mental health,” she told NBC News. Her plan, then, is in direct response to what Americans are demanding from leadership. From a prevention standpoint, the substance abuse component of Klobuchar’s plan is designed to better monitor where prescriptions drugs are going to curb prescription fraud, better educate doctors on substance abuse, expand drug take-back programs so that unused opioids don’t enter illegal markets, and give patients access to better or alternative ways to manage their pain. (Klobuchar, notably, supports the federal legalization of marijuana.) Her plan will tax opioid manufacturers at the rate of two cents per milligram in order to help fund her goals.

In addition, Klobuchar’s wants to expand access to the treatment of addiction and mental illness in underserved sectors such as rural communities or in prisons, where resources and support are grossly inadequate. There’s also an element of prison reform in her plan: nonviolent drug offenders will receive medical treatment rather than prison time, while law enforcement will undergo crisis intervention training in order to better serve both nonviolent drug offenders as well as the mentally ill. With suicide rates rising in the U.S., Klobuchar’s plan to tackle mental illness necessarily features a suicide prevention program, which will specifically target the demographics most at risk for suicide: LGBTQ people, veterans, farmers, and indigenous communities.

Substance abuse is an issue that is dear to Klobuchar, whose father suffered from alcoholism. “This really comes from my own experience with my dad, who struggled with alcohol his whole life,” she said. We first heard Klobuchar openly share the impact that her father’s alcohol abuse had on her at Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, as she coolly explained to Kavanaugh why she had never in fact been a blackout drunk.

Former Maryland congressman John Delaney also released a plan to address mental illness, increasing access to mental health treatment in schools and within the prison system, as well as covering treatment for more Medicare recipients. At a campaign stop in Iowa last week, Delaney — who has experience working in the health care industry — was critical of presidential nominees who championed Medicare for all or single-payer health care, rather than focusing on the urgent issue of mental health. “That’s the extent of the discussion around health care, and I just think it’s really misguided,” he told the Des Moines Register. Delaney opposes both Medicare for all and single-payer plans, instead supporting universal health care that would be a mash-up of both public and private insurance.