October 19, 2020


Washington, D.C. –Congressman Tony Cárdenasand Congressman Joe Kennedy III today delivered a comprehensive rebuke of the Trump Administration’s record on mental health care and substance use disorder treatment. Citing Medicaid cuts, the Affordable Care Act lawsuit, immigration policies and much more, the lawmakers illustrated the totality of Donald Trump’s failure to match his words of concern regarding mental health with substantive action throughout his first term. 


"There is no health without mental health. The Trump Administration has failed the millions of Americans with mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Rep. Cárdenas. “For years, President Trump has done nothing but attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and strip health care away from millions of Americans. And now, at the height of a public health crisis that has exacerbated mental health challenges in the United States, Donald Trump has a case before the Supreme Court to dismantle the ACA. He is continuing to make it more difficult for people to access mental health care. Trump betrayed the American public by not fulfilling his promise to strengthen and support our behavioral and mental health systems." 


“For four years, Donald Trump has not only destroyed our already broken mental health care system, he has pursued policies intentionally designed to harm the mental health of marginalized populations,” said Rep. Kennedy. “Despite his hollow words of concern for an opioid epidemic that has killed millions of Americans, his Administration’s actions have made it immeasurably harder for patients with substance use disorders to seek care. To put it very simply, he hasn’t only failed to strengthen our behavioral health care system, he has actively sought to dismantle it.” 


In their letter, Kennedy and Cárdenas cite the following failures of the Trump Administration’s first term: 

  • Separated children from their parents and put them in detention centers, which often leads to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • Removed children from their parents at the Mexico border, which threatens the mental health of the parents and can traumatize both child and parent. 
  • Stigmatized mental illness by associating it with violence and mass shootings, which only continues to add to dangerous rhetoric and misinformation. 
  • Proposed cutting Medicare spending by $465 billion, the program which covers services for the disabled and elderly, including substance use disorder and mental health care treatment. 
  • Attempted to reduce Medicaid, the single largest payer of mental and behavioral health services, spending by $700 billion in the most recent budget. 
  • Reduced the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s budget, cutting it by $62 million in the latest budget proposal. 
  • Recommended gutting Medicaid in Puerto Rico, after undergoing devastating earthquakes, which includes services for those with mental illness and other conditions. 
  • Redirected funding meant to rebuild Puerto Rico to a border wall, which only exacerbates the trauma Puerto Ricans had to endure. 
  • Endorsed the implementation of work requirements for those eligible to receive SNAP benefits, uprooting food security for people with mental illness. 
  • Recommended building more psychiatric hospitals to institutionalize those suffering from mental and behavioral health conditions. 
  • Advocated for undoing anti-discrimination rules in education and housing that would place the burden on those suffering from mental health conditions and substance use disorders to prove discrimination occurred. 
  • Issued illegal block grant guidance, which will cut Medicaid spending by narrowing and removing services, including limiting or eliminating coverage for treatment for substance use and mental health conditions. 
  • Allowed states to remove and limit enrollees, including those with mental health and substance use disorders. 
  • Developed a policy changing Medicaid eligibility, which allows states to implement conditional work requirements. Even with exemptions, it would be extremely difficult for those with mental illness to qualify for the program. 
  • Advocated for and supported health insurance plans that are short-term, or limited duration plans, which would not be required to cover mental or behavioral health treatments and services. 
  • In two years, spent close to $6 million in taxpayer dollars on personal branding for the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, money that should have been spent on Medicare and Medicaid services, including mental and behavioral health care. 
  • Headed the effort to repeal the ACA which would remove protections for pre-existing conditions, including those with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. 
  • Spearheaded a lawsuit repealing the ACA which expanded Medicaid, and would remove coverage for mental and behavioral health services for millions of low-income enrollees. 
  • Refused to provide consistent messaging or put forth a national plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which has impacted the mental health and well-being of people everywhere. 47 percent of people report that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.