We’ve reached a crisis with addiction and mental health. Here’s Pete’s plan.

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By the end of this year, the number of lives lost to opioid addiction will eclipse the number of U.S. military deaths during the Vietnam War — nine times over. In this very moment, LGBTQ youth are almost five times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide, and 20 veterans and active service members are dying by suicide each day.

Deaths due to drugs, alcohol, and suicide have contributed to the longest sustained decline in American life expectancy since the first World War. People and communities are being left behind.

Only about one in five people with a substance use disorder — and two of every five people with mental illness — receive treatment. Young teens are struggling with high anxiety and stress, and elderly Americans are suffering from loneliness and isolation. In the past two decades, 450,000 people have died due to opioid overdose.

Decades of neglect by our political leadership got us to this point. To reverse course and tackle this crisis, we need a fundamentally new approach to providing mental health care in this country. Today, Pete’s released a plan to do exactly that — it’s called “Healing and Belonging in America: A Plan to Improve Mental Health Care and Combat Addiction.”

Pete’s plan embraces prevention to ensure every person with mental illness or a substance use disorder has the resources and support to heal. He recognizes that tackling this crisis begins with fixing our broken health care system. Everyone should have access to affordable and comprehensive health coverage — including mental health and addiction care services. But to truly heal, we must also ensure those in a crisis or found using a drug are given treatment, not a jail cell. That’s why Pete’s plan decriminalizes mental illness and addiction.

Our country also needs to urgently change the way we talk about mental health and addiction. We must be clear that asking for help is synonymous with strength and empowerment. That means training students. That means equipping communities with resources to help people recover and remain resilient. That means strengthening communal bonds and creating livable communities. Pete’s plan will ensure everyone feels that they belong in their community and in our country.

The crisis we face is a matter of life and death for far too many. In one way or another, it’s a crisis that’s touched nearly all of us — whether we’ve struggled with mental health or substance abuse ourselves or know someone who has. Pete’s plan breaks with the past neglect that has failed our nation and embraces a bold, serious approach to confront this crisis. Please take a few minutes to read his plan to improve mental health care and combat addiction.

Thank you,

Pete for America