July 22, 2024
FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Unity Agenda for the Nation
FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Unity Agenda for the Nation

The day he took office, President Biden pledged to be a president for all Americans. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to keep that promise by advancing a Unity Agenda for the Nation.  The Unity Agenda calls for solving big challenges that unite all Americans—beating the opioid epidemic, tackling the mental health crisis, holding Big […]

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The day he took office, President Biden pledged to be a president for all Americans. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to keep that promise by advancing a Unity Agenda for the Nation.  The Unity Agenda calls for solving big challenges that unite all Americans—beating the opioid epidemic, tackling the mental health crisis, holding Big Tech accountable, meeting our sacred obligation to veterans, and ending cancer as we know it.

So far, President Biden has signed into law more than 400 bipartisan bills to support his Unity Agenda. That includes the bipartisan MAT Act, which has allowed over 1.8 million more medical practitioners across America to provide life-saving treatment for opioid use disorder; the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which is revolutionizing mental health services in American schools; the PACT Act, the most significant expansion of benefits and services for veterans in more than 30 years; and bipartisan legislation to launch ARPA-H and drive breakthroughs against deadly diseases such as cancer.

In his State of the Union Address, President Biden called on Congress to come together, unite the country, and work with him to build on this progress.

Beating the Opioid Epidemic

America is facing the deadliest drug threat in our history. More Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 die from opioid overdoses than any other cause. In tonight’s State of the Union Address, President Biden will discuss his commitment to beating the opioid epidemic – a key priority in his Unity Agenda for the Nation – and renew his call for Republicans and Democrats to work together to stop fentanyl from flowing into our communities, to bring to justice those who put it there, and to deliver life-saving medication and care across America.

  • Seizing Deadly Drugs to Save American Lives. President Biden believes that ending the opioid epidemic starts with stopping fentanyl at our border.  Under his leadership,federal law enforcement agents are keeping more deadly drugs out of our communities than ever before.  Officials have stopped more fentanyl at ports of entry over the last two years than in the previous five years combined.  Last year, federal agents seized enough fentanyl powder and fentanyl-laced pills to kill every American.  The President has prioritized deploying cutting-edge drug detection technology across our southwest border.  And tonight, he will call on Congress to strengthen penalties on fentanyl trafficking and pass the bipartisan border security bill, which would deliver 100 more high-tech drug detection machines to stop fentanyl from entering through ports of entry and give the United States additional tools to crack down on the global criminal networks fueling American overdose deaths.
  • Cracking Down on the Global Criminal Networks that Fuel American Overdose Deaths.  President Biden has cracked down on the global criminal networks fueling American overdose deaths.  That means attacking the epidemic where it often begins: with China-based companies that manufacture and distribute chemicals for making the fentanyl that fuels American overdose deaths.  After years of refusing to cooperate with the United States on counternarcotics, President Biden convinced Beijing to deliver on concrete steps that will save American lives: they are shutting down companies that produce deadly drugs, placing controls on dangerous chemicals, and sharing information with U.S. authorities.  The United States has also criminally charged leaders of the world’s largest and most powerful drug cartel – including Ovidio Guzman Lopez, the son of “El Chapo” – and thousands of drug traffickers distributing fentanyl on our streets and on social media.  The Treasury Department also sanctioned more than 250 people and organizations involved in the global illicit drug trade.  And the United States stepped up counternarcotics cooperation with other key governments – including India, Mexico, and Canada – and launched the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats, which unites more than 140 countries in the fight against drug trafficking cartels and illicit finance.
  • Delivering Life-Saving Medication and Care Across America.  President Biden has taken bold action to treat addiction and save American lives – including by expanding access to life-saving medications like naloxone – and to prevent drug use, delivering a 15-fold increase in the number of health care providers who can prescribe medications for opioid use disorder.  Under the Biden Administration, historic investments in the State Opioid Response (SOR) program have delivered free, life-saving medications across America, preventing more than 600,000 overdose deaths and delivering nearly 10 million naloxone kits.  The Biden Administration has also acted to make naloxone available over-the-counter at grocery stores and pharmacies, to increase naloxone at all federal facilities across America, and, through opioid treatment programs, to allow Americans with opioid use disorder to access the medications they need at home and through telehealth visits.  Building on this progress, this week the Administration will announce the White House Challenge to Save Lives from Overdose – a nationwide call to increase training on and access to life-saving opioid overdose reversal medications.  To continue this progress, the President calls on Congress to approve his budget, which includes more than $22 billion for substance use treatment to help more Americans achieve recovery.

Tackling the Mental Health Crisis

President Biden believesthat health care is a right, not a privilege, and that mental health care is health care – period.  But for millions of Americans, mental health care is out of reach.  In 2020, less than half of all adults with mental illness received treatment.  For children, the numbers are even worse: nearly 70 percent of our kids who seek care for mental health or substance use cannot get it.  We can and must do better.  To advance his Unity Agenda, President Biden has taken bold steps to transform how mental health is understood, accessed, treated, and integrated in and out of health care settings aiming to make mental health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans.

  • Taking on Health Insurers to Expand Access to Mental Health Care for All Americans.  Today, too many Americans struggle to access and afford the mental health care they need.  Health insurers make accessing it far too difficult, often forcing people to find mental health care from out-of-network providers – even though bipartisan legislation requires insurers to cover care for mental health and substance use at the same levels as physical health care.  The promise of mental health parity for all has united Republicans and Democrats for decades, and the President is committed to taking on health insurers and making it a reality.  To that end, the Administration is working to advance mental health parity rules, which would close loopholes by requiring insurers to evaluate access to mental health care in their networks and make changes to ensure equivalent access.  The President is also calling on Congress to enact strong bipartisan legislation to expand coverage in Medicare and private insurance, apply the same mental health parity protections to Medicare beneficiaries, strengthen the Administration’s parity enforcement capabilities, and extend workforce development and incentive programs to address shortages in mental health providers.
  • Delivering the Largest Investment in School-Based Mental Health Ever.  Thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Biden Administration is delivering the largest investment in school-based mental health services in American history, providing more than $280 million to help schools across America.  These investments will help bring 14,000 mental health professionals into America’s schools – a 35% increase nationwide.  In the coming weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will award $50 million in grant funding for Medicaid school-based health services, while issuing guidance to help ensure children receive the behavioral health care they are entitled to under Medicaid.  HHS and the Department of Education (ED) will continue to provide technical assistance to states and schools seeking to deliver critical mental health care services. And, later this year, ED will award $38 million to help increase the pipeline of school based mental health professionals.
  • Expanding Mental Health Services for Veterans.  President Biden is working to protect America’s veterans and believes that every American veteran deserves access to timely, high quality mental health services.  Military service raises the risk of mental health problems while causing other adjustment challenges, and the President has worked to expand peer mental health counseling programs to help veterans live safe and healthy lives after their service.  Under his Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has hired – and will continue to hire – new Veteran Peer Specialists to serve in VA medical centers and in critical outreach roles nationwide.  These Specialists are trained and certified mental health professionals whose lived experiences help them connect fellow veterans to services. 
  • Expanding America’s Mental Health Workforce and Clinics.  America’s shortage of qualified mental health professionals and facilities makes it harder for people to get the care they need.  More than 122 million Americans live in communities with severe shortages of mental health providers.  President Biden has taken bold steps to address these shortages.  He has delivered tens of billions to expand federal and state mental health and substance use services across America and called for permanent funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, which provide 24/7 crisis care and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, regardless of individuals’ ability to pay. And, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will help expand these clinics to all states across the United States.  The Biden Administration also launched 988, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which has connected millions of Americans in crisis to immediate, confidential, and free care from trained counselors, as well as the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline, which helps mothers navigate mental health issues by dialing 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262).  And this summer, the Administration will release a roadmap for growing and diversifying the workforce trained to address mental health and substance use issues.  This work builds on recent actions to advance mental health careers, including AmeriCorps’s first-of-its-kind partnership launched last month to support service-to-career pathways into behavioral health.

Holding Big Tech Accountable

President Biden believes that the American tech industry is the most innovative in the world.  Although tech platforms can help share ideas, stay connected, and access new products and services, they can also divide us and wreak serious real-world harms.  Like most Americans, the President has long been concerned about how some in the tech industry collect, share, and exploit sensitive personal data, tilt our economy’s playing field, violate the civil rights of women and minorities, and even put our children at risk.  The President also recognizes that recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), while carrying enormous promise, also exacerbate these risks, introduce new ones, and threaten to increase the influence that some tech companies wield over our lives.  Since his first State of the Union Address, President Biden has called on Congress to pass strong bipartisan legislation holding tech companies accountable for the harms they cause, and he renewed these calls. 

  • Protecting Americans’ Privacy and Safety Online, Especially Our Kids.  Consistent with his commitment to tackle the mental health crisis, President Biden has acted to address the compelling and growing evidence that social media and other tech platforms harm mental health and wellbeing of all Americans especially our kids.  In each of his State of the Union Addresses, President Biden has called for strong federal protections for Americans’ privacy, including clear limits on how companies collect, use and share highly personal data – your internet history, your personal communications, your location, and your health, genetic and biometric data.  Disclosure is not enough – President Biden believes much of that data should not be collected in the first place and that young people, who are especially vulnerable online, need even stronger protections.  Last month, President Biden took the most significant federal action any President has ever taken to protect Americans’ data security.  His Executive Order begins a process that will stop the large-scale transfer of this data—which includes intimate insights into Americans’ health, location, and finances—to countries like China and Russia.  But Congress must act.  Strong bipartisan legislation is necessary to regulate the types of data that is collected, protect kids online, and ensure the privacy of all Americans, including legislation that limits targeted advertising and bans it altogether for children. 
  • Holding Companies Accountable for the Harms They Cause.  President Biden believes that all companies – including technology companies – should be held accountable for the harms they cause, including the content they spread and the algorithms they use.  For this reason, President Biden has long called on Congress for fundamental reform to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which absolves tech companies from legal responsibility for content posted on their sites.  The President has also called on Congress to stop tech platforms from being used for criminal conduct, including sales of dangerous drugs like fentanyl.  The Biden Administration has also used all its authorities to crack down on algorithmic discrimination and algorithmic collusion and to bring more competition back to the tech sector.  The President’s vision for our economy is one in which everyone – small and midsized businesses, mom-and-pop shops, entrepreneurs – can compete on a level playing field with the biggest companies, including and perhaps especially in the tech sector. That’s why he has also worked with Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to boost funding for federal antitrust enforcers.
  • Making Sure AI is Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy.  Since taking office, President Biden has moved swiftly to seize the promise and manage the risks of AI.  Last year, he issued a landmark Executive Order on AI to ensure that America leads the way toward responsible AI innovation.  The Order directed federal agencies to establish new high standards for AI safety and security, protect Americans’ privacy, advance equity and civil rights, stand up for workers and consumers, and much more.  In January, the White House announced that agencies had completed on schedule all of the 90-day actions tasked by the Order.  These actions included using the Defense Production Act to compel developers of the most powerful AI systems to report vital safety information, assessing the risks from AI’s use in every critical infrastructure sector, and launching a pilot of the National AI Research Resource to catalyze innovation and competition. Since then, agencies have completed other vital work.  For example, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a new rule to provide for penalties and redress when AI is used to impersonate an individual for commercial purposes. Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy announced funding to support a research network that will enable the development of more secure and privacy-safeguarding approaches in AI.  And the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published guidance clarifying questions at the intersection of AI and intellectual property law—encouraging the use of AI to keep America at the frontlines of innovation while ensuring AI will not be used to create a minefield of patents to stifle competition.

Delivering on our Sacred Obligation to America’s Veterans and their Families

President Biden believes there is no more sacred obligation than taking care of our nation’s military service members, veterans, and their families, caregivers, and survivors.  Simply put, we owe them a debt we can never fully repay.  Delivering on our sacred obligation to those who have worn the uniform is a commitment that unites all Americans and that is why the President has made supporting our veterans a core pillar in his Unity Agenda for the nation.  President Biden has signed into law more than 30 bipartisan bills addressing critical issues facing veterans today, including the PACT Act, which is most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans in more than 30 years.  And the President and Congress have worked together to address veteran homelessness, improve access to child and long-term care, and support education and workforce opportunity for veterans and their families. 

  • Delivering Historic Expansion of Veterans’ Health Care under the PACT Act.  President Biden believes that every veteran deserves access to quality health care.  This week, in one of the largest expansions of veterans’ health care in American history, President Biden delivered on the promise that any veteran exposed to toxins can enroll directly in VA health care—nearly a decade ahead of schedule.  Millions of veterans — including all veterans who served in the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and any combat zone after 9/11 — can enroll directly in VA health.  President Biden encourages all eligible veterans to visit VA.gov/PACT or call 1-800-MYVA411 to learn more and apply.  This week’s historic expansion builds on the other Administration work to deliver more benefits and health care more quickly to more veterans than ever before.  Since its 2022 enactment, VA has screened more than 5.25 million veterans for toxic exposure, received more than 1.43 million PACT Act claims, and granted toxic exposure benefits to more than 720,000 veterans and survivors.  Over 114,000 veterans eligible under the PACT Act also have newly enrolled in VA health care.  In addition, just last year, VA delivered $163 billion in earned benefits to 6.3 million veterans and survivors, and processed a record 1.98 million disability claims.  VA delivered more than 116 million health care appointments, over 5.5 million dental procedures, and provided services and assistance to more than 74,000 family caregivers. 
  • Expanding Cancer Care for Veterans.  Under the PACT Act, the Biden Administration is making care and benefits available to veterans battling over 300 medical conditions, including more than 100 cancers.  With President Biden’s leadership, VA is expanding the types of cancers for which veterans can get disability benefits if exposed to radiation, burn pits, or water contamination.  In addition, this year VA will offer genetic testing to every veteran who may need it and make lung cancer screenings available in every VA facility nationwide, which will help save the lives of the nearly 5,000 veterans who die from lung cancer every year.  VA is also taking action to expand at-home screenings for colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in America.
  • Ensuring Access to Affordable, Stable Housing.  President Biden believes that every veteran should have a roof over their head.  But housing costs are too high, and significant investments are needed to address the large shortage of affordable homes that has been growing for more than a decade.  Tonight, President Biden will discuss his plan to lower housing costs, including by building and preserving over 2 million new homes to lower rents and the cost of buying a home.  At the same time, the Biden Administration is taking steps to ensure access to affordable and stable housing for all veterans.  Last year alone, VA helped more than 145,000 Veterans and their families retain their homes or otherwise avoid foreclosure and permanently housed more than 46,000 Veterans.  The Biden Administration awarded more than $1 billion in grant funding to help homeless veterans.  The Administration also launched first-of-its-kind funding for legal services for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness. 
  • Lowering Costs for Veterans and Cracking Down on Fraud.  President Biden is doing everything in his power to lower costs for all Americans, including America’s veterans, and to combat fraud and scams that target veterans, service members, and their families.  Fraud against veterans and service members is widespread. From 2015-2019, the Federal Trade Commission received 163,000 fraud reports from veterans and nearly 13,000 from active-duty service members.  Veterans face particularly high risks of fraud with the median loss for veterans from fraud 44% higher than for other civilians.  President Biden launched the Veteran Scam and Fraud Evasion (VSAFE) Task Force to crack down on these fraud and scams.  And today, VA is launching a new National Veterans Financial Resource Center to promote financial stability, literacy, and debt management for veterans.
  • Reducing Veteran Suicide.  President Biden is working to protect America’s veterans and released a comprehensive strategy for reducing military and veteran suicide that directs bold and comprehensive action.  Alongside the Administration’s expansion of peer mental health counseling programs for Veterans, VA has expanded its Veteran Justice Outreach Specialist workforce by over 20 percent and will launch a new $10 million program to support states and territories in their efforts to prevent veteran suicide this spring.  In addition, building on the success of KeepItSecure.net, VA will launch a nationwide lethal means safety campaign which will include toolkits, technical assistance and training, and public service assets for veterans, providers, caregivers, and community organizations.
  • Supporting Military and Veteran Families, Caregivers, and Survivors.  As a military family, President Biden and the First Lady recognize the commitment and resilience of military-connected families as essential to the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces.  In June 2023, the President, alongside Dr. Biden, signed an Executive Order on Advancing Economic Security for Military and Veteran Spouses, Military Caregivers, and Survivors.  This Executive Order is the most comprehensive set of administrative actions any President has directed to support military spouses, and it included nearly 20 new actions aimed at enhancing career stability, expanding employment resources, and improving transition assistance support for military-connected spouses.  Last month, the Biden Administration launched new tools designed to ensure the Federal government is a leader among employers, modeling approaches to hiring and retaining military spouse talent.

Ending Cancer as We Know It

Cancer has touched nearly every American family.  It is the second leading cause of death in the United States.  Each year, more than 600,000 Americans die from cancer and nearly 1.8 million Americans are diagnosed.  Beating cancer brings Americans together no matter where they are, and President Biden made ending cancer as we know it a central part of the Unity Agenda. 

Two years ago, the President and First Lady reignited the Cancer Moonshot with the goals of reducing the cancer death rate in the United States by at least half – preventing more than 4 million cancer deaths by 2047 – and improving the experience of people who are touched by cancer.  The President also established a Cancer Cabinet to mobilize action in advancing these goals.  In the time since, the Cancer Moonshot has announced more than 60 new programs, policies, and resources, and more than 120 private companies, non-profit organizations, patient groups, and academic institutions have stepped up with new actions in support of these goals.  In his State of the Union Address, President Biden will announce a new advance in the fight to end cancer as we know it:

  • A New Revolutionary Treatment Program to Transform Outcomes for Americans Facing Cancer.  Two years ago, President Biden and Congress worked together on a bipartisan basis to launch ARPA-H, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, with an initial investment of $2.5 billion to drive breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and other diseases.  Today, ARPA-H launched of a revolutionary treatment program that will improve outcomes for people facing cancers that lead to a vast majority of cancer deaths in the United States each year.  Far too often, doctors lack the tools to determine when a tumor has changed to the point where a different or additional treatment is needed and struggle to accurately predict which treatment will be most effective at a particular point. As a result, people, especially those facing an advanced cancer, may receive treatments that are not effective.  ARPA-H’s Advanced Analysis for Precision cancer Therapy (ADAPT) program will develop next-generation tools that predict the optimal treatment for each person facing advanced cancer, monitor tumors and determine precisely when they change, ensure patients receive the right treatment at the right time, and ultimately, save and extend lives. Today’s announcement builds on other recent progress, including the launch of the National Cancer Institute’s Clinical Trials Innovation Unit, which is accelerating clinical testing of cutting-edge cancer prevention, diagnostic, treatment, and survivorship approaches.
  • Lowering Costs and Delivering Patient Navigation Support.  Cancer is one of the costliest diagnoses a person can face in the United States.  Patient out-of-pocket costs for cancer care total more than $16 billion each year and approximately 40 percent of cancer patients fully deplete their assets by the second year of their diagnosis.  President Biden believes that access to health care is a right, not a privilege, and more Americans have health insurance today than under any President.  Starting next year, millions of seniors on Medicare will save up to tens of thousands a year when the $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on prescription drugs goes into effect, especially those receiving cancer drugs, which are among the most expensive drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.  This week, President Biden announced new steps to lower drug and health care costs, including for Americans facing cancer, and to deliver support to people with a cancer diagnosis through expanded patient navigation services.  Cancer navigation is personalized assistance to patients, caregivers, and families to help identify and resolve barriers to high-quality and timely cancer care through care coordination and advocacy.  Because these services improve patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and advance health equity, President Biden has prioritized increasing access to navigation service and last year the Biden Cancer Moonshot announced new steps to deliver cancer navigation services across America.  With the First Lady’s leadership, today the Administration announced new commitments from seven leading insurance companies which cover more than 150 million Americans to reimburse for navigation services and new actions from 40 comprehensive cancer centers and community oncology practices to bring effective navigation support to more communities.
  • Tackling the Drivers of Cancer and Cancer DeathsThe Biden Administration is working to tackle the drivers of cancer in America, including by making the largest investment in clean water in America history thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  The President is committed to ensuring every community has access to clean drinking water, free of PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” that can cause cancer.  President Biden is delivering funding to every single state and territory in the country to expand access to clean drinking water, replace lead pipes, improve wastewater and sanitation infrastructure, and remove PFAS contamination in water.  And with billions of dollars of additional investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden-Harris Administration is cleaning up toxic Superfund sites, an important step toward environmental justice and cancer prevention.  In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services is releasing a Framework to Support and Accelerate Smoking Cessation, setting out an agenda and actions to expand equitable access and effectiveness of smoking cessation services to more Americans.  As an early step in the execution of this roadmap, CMS is supporting efforts to reach Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries with effective support to quit smoking and the Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its capacity to offer tobacco-use treatment to Veterans receiving lung cancer screening and through outreach.

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Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/03/08/fact-sheet-president-bidens-unity-agenda-for-the-nation/

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