As the nation's pundit class anticipates President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday, the White House has released a preview of his talking points. The United States is currently grappling with the Covid pandemic, the restrictions on daily life and travel imposed as a result of measures to curb the spread of that illness, and the prospect of a war in Ukraine that will spill across borders into NATO territory, spurring a war in Europe.
For Biden's White House, mental health will be of primary concern during the 9 pm speech. As part of Biden's "unity agenda," Biden is expected to "announce a strategy to address our national mental health crisis." The Biden administration walks through the reasoning, saying that the impact of the Covid crisis has created a mental health crisis that has "driven Americans to a breaking point."
Congress dropped their mask requirement as fencing went up around the Capitol Building and the Joint Session of Congress prepared to meet to hear the speech. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously issued fines against sitting members of Congress who refused to wear masks on the House floor.
Biden is expected to proclaim the horrors of learning loss and learning delays caused by the closure of schools and the switch to "remote learning" made by many school districts across the nation. But it doesn't appear that he is expected to accept any of the blame for schools remaining closed, despite his close collaboration with teachers unions like the largest teachers union in the country, the NEA, which instructed schools to stay closed. So, too, did American Federation of Teacher's President Randi Weingarten, who said that she was doing everything she could to keep schools open while instructing the CDC to issue stricter guidance toward keeping schools closed. This under the guise of keeping teachers safe from students.
Despite his collusion with teachers unions to keep schools closed, the Biden administration laments that "students are about give months behind in math and four months behind in reading, compared with students prior to the pandemic." They blame "social media platforms, which for years gave been conducting a national experiment on our children and using their data to keep them clicking." They claim that social media is harmful to children's mental health. The Biden administration has repeatedly called for social media and media to censor ideas that are counter to the Biden administrations talking points.
To address the mental health of children and teens, Biden plans to "ban targeted advertising for children online," to require social media platforms and "other interactive digital service providers" to "prioritize and ensure the health, safety and well-being of children and young people," and to "stop discriminatory algorithmic decision-making that limits opportunities for young Americans." By this, the administration means that algorithms sort results based on users' "gender" or race. The administration believes it is "unfair" when searches turn up porn results, for such search terms as "Asian girls," "Latina girls," or "[b]lack girls."
Biden intends to call for more funding for research into "social media's mental harms," and to increase "early childhood and school-based intervention services and supports." This includes more investment in what's called social-emotional learning and funding for community schools. Among the educational funding initiatives are jobs programs for teachers, and funding for more after school and summer school programs.
Biden's plans for a mental health initiative include more funding, to invest in behavioral health programs, to train more paraprofessionals, to create a certification program for "peer specialists," to fund programs to "address burnout" for health care workers, to launch a new phone line for people in "mental health crisis," to make permanent a plan launched under the American Rescue Plan to "expand the availability of evidence-based community mental health services," and to fund more research.
Biden will propose that mental health be required to be covered by US medical insurers, and that mental health and substance abuse programs be available in primary care settings. He will propose that veterans get "same-day mental health care," and that "tele- and virtual mental health care options" access be increased. Mental health support will be expanded under Biden's proposal into higher education, as well as into "community-based settings." Biden will also propose online resources to make it easier to find mental health care providers.
Mental health funding will also be proposed for "justice-involved populations," i.e. the incarcerated and those on probation. Biden will propose funding for human services professionals to obtain "mental health skills," as well.
In short, Biden's "unity agenda" will focus on unifying Americans under the banner of mental health.
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