President Biden plans to use his State of the Union address on Tuesday to build on his “unity agenda” by calling on Congress to help him crack down on the influx of fentanyl coming into the U.S. and help tackle the mental health crisis by banning targeted advertising online for children.
The four pillars of the agenda laid out in his first State of the Union in March 2022 include ending cancer as we know it, delivering on obligations to veterans, tackling the mental health crisis and beating the opioid and overdose epidemic.
Biden on Tuesday plans to call on Congress to make fentanyl-related substances permanently Schedule I drugs before that scheduling expires in December 2024.
“This is not a red state problem or a blue state problem, this is America’s problem. And he believes it’s going to take all of us, all of us working together,” Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters on a call previewing the address.
The president plans to announce that his administration will work to stop fentanyl from getting through ports of entry at the southern border, stop packages from being shipped into the U.S. with fentanyl, and lead a diplomatic push to address fentanyl by communicating with China and Mexico. The chemicals to make opioids are being shipped predominantly from China and fentanyl production is happening in Mexico, Gupta said.
The president has “very specific asks of the [People’s Republic of China] to take actions that we know will significantly reduce, if not eliminate, that shipping of precursor chemicals. But also at the same time to ensure that where the production happens of fentanyl, which is mostly in Mexico, that we’re working with the Mexican authorities and the leadership there,” Gupta said.
To tackle the mental health crisis, Biden will call on Congress to ban targeted advertising online for children and enact protections for their privacy, health and safety online.
“We know that too many Americans continue to struggle, especially young people, where mounting evidence indicates that social media [and] other tech platforms can be harmful to mental health,” Christen Linke Young, deputy assistant to the president for health and veterans affairs, told reporters.
Additionally, the president will announce steps to increase the number of mental health professionals in schools and ensure that insurance plans are not barriers to care.
To focus on ending cancer, Biden will ask Congress to reauthorize the National Cancer Act in order to update the nation’s cancer research and care systems. He will announce that he wants to work with Congress to lock in the investment in cancer research that passed in 2016 as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act.
He also wants steps to ensure patient navigation services are covered benefits and to focus on prevention by helping people avoid smoking and eliminating environmental exposures like toxic sites and lead pipes.
And, to support veterans, Biden will announce that the Department of Veterans Affairs will launch a new $10 million program to reduce veteran suicide and will offer training for 1.3 million community providers.
He will also include in his budget funding to triple the number of veterans who can access assistance to afford rent to reduce the number of homeless veterans.
Biden’s State of the Union address will begin at 9 p.m.