Mental Health, Addiction, and the 2020 Presidential Race

Amy Klobuchar’s $100 billion plan offers a beacon of hope.

Posted May 20, 2019

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After years of explaining to distraught family members how few funded programs exist for those with severe mental illness and addiction issues, it’s encouraging to read about presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar’s $100 billion plan to combat addiction and improve mental healthcare.

The proposal is indeed comprehensive, with detailed segments dedicated to prevention, treatment, and ongoing recovery, including transitional housing—an absolutely crucial area for the families I counsel, whose homes have become revolving doors for loved ones constantly in and out of psychiatric hospitals. It shows Senator Klobuchar’s sophisticated understanding of the mental health and addiction problems facing this country; no surprise given her own father’s experience with alcoholism, which she has discussed publicly.

Given the dire need for such solutions in both blue and red states, especially counties hit hard by the opioid crisis, one might have reason to view Senator Klobuchar’s plan optimistically. And yet we’ve already seen the opioid bill President Trump signed last year sputter in its reliance on the passage of new legislation and approval of a massive legal settlement not yet in the works. 

Meanwhile, families impacted by mental health and/or addiction issues watch their loved ones cycle in and out of our broken system, wondering if they will end up hospitalized again, incarcerated, on the streets or in the morgue.

Politics means little when a crisis like this hits home.

Senator Klobuchar is just one of more than 20 Democratic candidates vying for the presidency. She should be commended for making this a signature issue. But as a next step, we must make our voices heard.

People who care about mental health and addiction issues, and especially those who live in such powerful places as Iowa and New Hampshire, can reach out to Senator Klobuchar’s campaign, and other presidential contenders, to ensure all our preferred candidates know that mental health and addiction issues are not just important to society, but will determine how voters plan to choose among the crowded field.

Politics today breeds cynicism, but the idea of people sharing their personal stories, as they do with me every day, earnestly seeking to inform and looking to do good on behalf of family, friends and neighbors; this is what makes me optimistic and what makes me think I might one day have more solutions for the families who come to me for help.