President Trump released an Executive Order (EO) to increase support for mental health needs, citing an increased need as COVID-related shutdowns continue across the country (fact sheet). In brief, the EO sets priority areas for work on mental health and establishes a workgroup to devise a response pandemic-driven mental health needs. A full summary of the EO’s major provisions follows.
- Policy: Here, the EO formally states the policy of the U.S. is to prevent suicides, drug-related deaths, and poor behavioral health outcomes, with a focus on those driven by the pandemic. The EO then issues a national call to provide crisis intervention services; increase availability and access to behavioral health care; increase availability of telehealth for purposes of mental health; and leveraging public and private resources to address factors leading to worsening mental health, such as prolonged unemployment and isolation.
- Establishment of a Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group: The EO establishes a Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group (working group) to lead an “all-government” response to current mental health needs. The working group will be co-chaired by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (or his/her designee) and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. The group will also involve participants from a multitude of other relevant federal agencies.
- Responsibilities of the Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group: The EO directs the working group to specifically consider the mental health conditions of vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, seniors, veterans, small business owners, children, and individuals affected by domestic violence; those living with disabilities; and those with substance use disorder (SUD). The EO further directs the working group to issue a report outlining a plan to improve service coordination amongst private and public stakeholders to support individuals experiencing mental health challenges. The report is due 45 days from the issuance of the EO.
- Grant Funding for States and Organizations that Permit In-Person Treatment and Recovery Support Activities for Mental and Behavioral Health: The EO directs federal agencies that make grants that fund mental health services to encourage grantees to adopt policies that are shown to improve mental health and reduce risk of suicide, including:
- In-person or telephone-based support groups;
- Face-to-face therapeutic services (including group therapy); and
- Communal supports, such as education programs and faith-based services.
The EO also directs grantmaking agencies to maximize their resources to award grants to entities that provide outreach, education, and case management services to vulnerable populations with mental health needs.