Biden to hold tech companies accountable on mental health
President Biden will outline a plan to tackle the mental health crisis during his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, which will focus heavily on holding social media companies accountable for their role in it.
The Biden administration argues that the mental health crisis among young people is “accentuated by large social media platforms, which for years have been conducting a national experiment on our children and using their data to keep them clicking—with enormous consequences,” according to senior administration officials.
In the address, Biden will call on Congress to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, and demand that technology companies stop collecting personal data on children.
“The evidence is mounting that social media plays a systemic role in worsening the mental health of countless young people,” senior administration officials said.
The strategy to address the mental health crisis is part of an overall “unity agenda” that the president will outline in the State of the Union.
Officials noted staggering statistics around mental health, including that students are about five months behind in math and four months behind in reading, compared with students prior to the pandemic and emergency department visits for attempted suicide have risen 51 percent among adolescent girls.
Biden will call on Congress to ban excessive data collection and targeted advertising online for children and young people and include at least $5 million in his fiscal 2023 budget for advancing research on social media’s harms, as well as the clinical and societal interventions to deploy to address them.
“The president believes tech companies should be held accountable for the harms they cause and believes we need action here,” officials said.
Officials added that some pieces of this require legislation but there are also pieces that they believe we do administratively, particularly around research and understanding harms.
The efforts to support Americans by creating health environments is the third pillar in an approach that Biden will lay out to address the mental health crisis, which also involves strengthening system capacity and connecting Americans to care.
The president will include a $700 million investment in programs around training and supporting clinicians in his budget in an effort to expand the pipeline of behavioral health providers.
This funding is intended to build on the $103 million from last year’s American Rescue Plan to address burnout and strengthen resiliency among health care workers.
The administration will launch a crisis hotline in July, so that every American in crisis can dial ‘988’ to be connected to support. The president will include nearly $700 million to staff up the crisis centers, which will build on the $180 million in the American Rescue Plan to support local capacity to answer crisis calls.
To increase access to care, Biden’s budget will propose that all health plans cover behavioral health services with an adequate network of providers, including three behavioral health visits each year without cost-sharing. Biden will also call for expanding access to telehealth and access to mental health support in schools, colleges, and universities.
A 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush required that when employers offer mental health and substance use disorder services as part of their health plans, they are prevented from imposing less favorable benefit limitations on those benefits than on medical and surgical benefits.
“That standard is too often ignored, and this administration is taking important steps to enforce the law,” officials said.
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