We must confront the epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction, specifically the opioid crisis and other drugs plaguing our communities, by vastly expanding access to prevention and treatment, supporting recovery, helping community organizations, and promoting better practices by prescribers. The Democratic Party is committed to assisting the estimated 20 million people struggling with addiction in this country to find and sustain healthy lives by encouraging full recovery and integration into society and working to remove common barriers to gainful employment, housing, and education. We will continue to fight to expand access to care for addiction services, and ensure that insurance coverage is equal to that for any other health conditions. We think it is time for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor, and state regulatory agencies to fully implement the protections of the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008—which means that American medical insurers, including the federal government, will need to disclose how they make their medical management decisions.
We should also do more to educate our youth, as well as their families, teachers, coaches, mentors, and friends, to intervene early to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. We should help state and local leaders establish evidence-based, age-appropriate, and locally-tailored prevention programs. These programs include school-based drug education programs that have been shown to have meaningful effects on risky behavior; community-based peer mentorship and leadership programs; and after-school activities that deter drug use and encourage life skills.
We must treat mental health issues with the same care and seriousness that we treat issues of physical health, support a robust mental health workforce, and promote better integration of the behavioral and general health care systems. Recognizing that maintaining good mental health is critical to all people, including young people’s health and development, we will work with health professionals to ensure that all children have access to mental health care. We must also expand community-based treatment for substance abuse disorders and mental health conditions and fully enforce our parity law. And we should create a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan—to move toward the HHS-promoted Zero Suicide commitment.
Democrats believe that our country must make supporting the millions of individuals with autism and those diagnosed in the future and their families a priority. We will conduct a nationwide early screening outreach campaign to ensure that all children, and in particular children from underserved backgrounds, can get screened for autism. We will expand services and support for adults and individuals transitioning into adulthood, including employment and housing assistance. And we will push states to require health insurance coverage for autism services in private insurance plans as well as state marketplaces so that people with autism are not denied care.
Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment. We condemn and will combat any acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will defend the ACA, which extends affordable preventive health care to women, including no-cost contraception, and prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.
We will address the discrimination and barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexuality, race, income, disability, and other factors. We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care, evidence-based sex education and a full range of family planning services help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
And we strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child, including by ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and by providing services during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including adoption and social support services, as well as protections for women against pregnancy discrimination. We are committed to creating a society where children are safe and can thrive physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually. We recognize and support the importance of civil structures that are essential to creating this for every child.
Our country faces a long-term care crisis that prevents too many seniors and people with disabilities from being able to live with dignity at home or in their communities. The vast majority of people who are aging or living with a disability want to do so at home, but face challenges finding and affording the support they need to do so. Programs that emphasize independence rather than institutionalization must be better structured to support them. Democrats will take steps to strengthen and expand the home care workforce, give seniors and people with disabilities access to quality, affordable long-term care, services, and supports, and ensure that all of these resources are readily available at home or in the community.
Investment in our nation’s crumbling public health infrastructure is critical to ensuring preparedness for emerging threats; for preventing disease, illness, and injury in communities; and for promoting good health and wellbeing. Inadequate access to public health services has a disparate impact on poor, rural, and minority communities where public health services are a significant source of health care. Democrats will fight for increased investments in public health to better address emerging threats and the needs across our country. To further that end, the Democratic Party will continue to oppose Republican attempts to cut public health services and funding. We will ensure adequate funding of public health education at the undergraduate, graduate, and medical school levels as well as adequate funding of residency training programs in public health, preventive medicine, and its subspecialties.
We must take a number of proactive steps so that all Americans—regardless of location, income or history—have the opportunity to live full, healthy lives. Democrats will fight for increased investments and coordination in public health to better address emerging threats as well as persistent needs across our country. Health equity among Americans remains elusive—higher income is strongly associated with longer life expectancy and the gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest Americans is increasing. We continue to see unacceptable differences in health outcomes by race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. A growing body of research demonstrates the link between social factors—such as poverty, unemployment, experience of discrimination, and housing instability—and poor health. Democrats will continue to pursue policies addressing these social factors and empowering communities to respond to their most pressing health needs.