On October 5, 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order (EO) 13594, Saving Lives Through Increased Support for Mental and Behavioral Health Needs. It reflects the Administration’s dedication to preventing the tragedy of suicide, ending the opioid crisis, and improving mental and behavioral health. As such, the Administration has placed a great emphasis on helping those individuals who are most susceptible, from a mental health standpoint, to prolonged state and local COVID-19 restrictions. Since mental illnesses and substance use disorders (SUDs) can be a risk for all Americans equally, helping people with these vulnerabilities has broad bipartisan support. The EO highlights the exacerbation of emotional needs stemming from interpersonal and environmental stressors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent disruption of services, and provides a blueprint to alleviate these ongoing challenges.
The goal is to reduce the number of immediate life-threatening situations related to mental illness and SUDs through increased education, crisis intervention, follow-up and support services, and increased telehealth and online behavioral health services (i.e. services for a broad range of supports for people with mental illness, SUDs, and other conditions and across the age spectrum from youth to older adults), while utilizing both public and private resources. The EO orders the creation of a Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group (Working Group) to examine existing protocols and programs, and outline a plan for improving mental health functioning by assisting public and private stakeholders and agencies to maximize therapeutic support, including face-toface in-person services, to reduce the negative impact of COVID-19. This Report sets forth actions to date, as well as recommendations for future activity to address these critical issues.