Prioritize Young People's Mental Health with $7.5 Billion Investment

The Coronavirus pandemic has taken a steep toll on young people’s mental health and wellness. The Biden Administration is calling for a $4 billion investment in mental health as a part of the American Rescue Plan. This is a critical investment, but $4 billion falls dramatically short in the context of a once in-a-century cultural trauma[1] and the associated mental health concerns that the entire country has experienced.

Mental health resources that aren’t intentionally designed to reach youth and young adults won’t reach them.[2] We urge Congress to prioritize young people’s healing and well-being by making a targeted $7.5 billion investment—over and above the $4 billion already proposed—in the mental health of youth ages 16-25.

In 2018, more than 1.1 million young people reported that they needed mental health support but couldn’t get it. That represented 20 percent of all young adults ages 18-25 living in poverty.

In 2018, the cost would have been $2.5 billion to address this unmet need and provide services to these 1.1 million young people at an estimated $2,197/youth[3].

During the pandemic, 2 in 3 young people report feeling down, depressed, or hopeless. That’s a 200 percent increase since 2018.

3x the Need Demands 3x the Investment

To meet this crisis, we are calling for a targeted investment in the mental health of youth and young adults of $7.5 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)—over and above the current $4 billion proposal to SAMHSA and HRSA. This investment is commensurate with the dramatic increase in need and should support:

  • Youth mobile crisis response services;[4]
  • Youth peer support;[5]
  • Expanded access to app- and text-based telehealth;[6]
  • Increased capacity to support mental health in youth-serving community-based organizations;[7]
  • Culturally responsive Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) screening and trauma responsive care;[8] and
  • Restoring the Healthy Transitions Initiative to its original purpose and funding level[9]

Responding to the surging mental health crisis is essential for a just and comprehensive pandemic recovery. The pandemic has exacerbated our nation’s past failure to invest in safe communities; adequately address social, environmental, and economic justice and opportunity; and equitably meet the mental health needs of youth and young adults. As a result, young people have triple the level of need. We can only successfully resolve the health and economic crisis we face if young people’s mental health needs cease to outpace our investments.