Biden to announce mental health funding at Newtown event

Vice President Biden will announce $100 million in funding for mental health services and facilities at an event Tuesday with families of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting.

The funds will go to help community health centers establish or expand services for those living with mental illness and addiction, according to a White House official. Grants through the Affordable Care Act will fund the hiring of new mental health professionals.

ADVERTISEMENT
A loan program through the Department of Agriculture will also help finance the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas. The money is also available for installing new mental health tools, like a telemedicine program that will allow mental health workers to serve rural areas remotely.

The event dovetails with two of the White House’s major initiatives for the president’s second term: responding to the problem of gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The White House has said it would focus on a different benefit of the Affordable Care Act each day leading up to the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for consumers to secure insurance before the beginning of the year.

On Tuesday, that focus will be the law’s benefits for mental health services.

White House officials will tout how insurance plans under the law are required to cover mental health and substance use disorder services. They’ll also note that most plans offer free depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children.

Separately, the White House is also hoping to highlight efforts they’ve taken to combat gun violence approaching the one-year anniversary of the Dec. 14 shooting, during which 20 schoolchildren and six educators were killed.

After a push to expand background checks was stymied in the Senate earlier this year, the administration has turned to administrative actions and federal programs in the hope of reducing gun violence. 

At a mental health conference hosted by the White House in June, Obama noted that most suicides involved “someone with a mental health or substance abuse disorder.”

“And in some cases, when a condition goes untreated, it can lead to tragedy on a larger scale,” Obama said.

It’s possible that Biden, who led a committee tasked with presenting Obama ideas for how the government could respond to the Newtown shooting, will use the event to renew his call for additional gun reforms.

Organizing for Action (OFA), the political advocacy group born from the Obama-Biden reelection campaign, has already asked supporters to host events around the Newtown anniversary calling on “Congress to finally take action to make our communities safer."

OFA says it intends the events to be a "powerful reminder of what we lost a year ago, and a reminder that we as a nation need to do more to prevent gun violence and keep our communities safe."

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to provide details of how the president would mark a year since the mass shooting.

“That day for him and I think for all of us will stick in our memories forever. In terms of what he or we will be doing around that anniversary, I don’t have any information to provide today. But it certainly will be a somber occasion,” Carney said.