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Charles Ingoglia, MSW

President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health

New Polling Shows Broad Bipartisan Consensus on Mental Health and Addiction … and May Be the Secret to a Conflict-free Holiday Gathering

December 11, 2019 | Advocacy | Comments
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New Hampshire Voters' Opinions on the Federal Government Addressing Mental Health and Addiction

This holiday season, I see lots of experts offering advice on how to prevent ideological conflict during family gatherings.  Most suggestions involve avoidance – principally, don’t talk about politics.  While that may be good advice, I suspect it is hard to implement in practice. So, let me offer another approach.

There is incredibly broad, bipartisan consensus when it comes to the need for the federal government to do more to address mental health and addiction.  This was the overwhelming conclusion of polling conducted by the National Council in New Hampshire, in advance of a Town Hall forum with presidential candidates. But looking at many other national polls, it is clear that, on this issue, New Hampshire voters reflect the views of voters nationwide.

A whopping 84% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans in New Hampshire think the federal government is not doing enough to address mental health. And when it comes to addiction, 77% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans in New Hampshire want to see the federal government do more.

Few issues today enjoy that kind of broad bipartisan support.

But let’s not stop there.  Voters in New Hampshire – and certainly nationwide – want to support the candidate that is ready to truly address the mental health and addiction crisis, one of the most important social issues facing the nation.

Here are some other highlights from the polling:

  • A bipartisan majority of New Hampshire voters say a presidential candidate’s plan for increasing funding for mental health (89% Democrats and 82% Republicans) and addiction (85% Democrats and 74% Republican) is important in their 2020 vote.
  • 66% of all New Hampshire voters are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who promises to do more to address mental health. But most (56%) know little about plans presidential candidates have to address mental health and addiction.
  • 77% of young voters and 74% of female voters in the state are more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who promises to do more to address mental health.

So, what does this mean? I believe the message is clear: candidates who want to win – in New Hampshire and nationwide – need to present a real plan, real solutions, to voters who are hungry for change.

We have been living in a public health crisis for too long. According to the CDC, more than 702,000 people died from a drug overdose between 1999 and 2017, making it a leading cause of injury – related death in the United States. Furthermore, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the U.S., according to the CDC.

This is a national crisis. Fortunately, there is a clearly a very strong, bipartisan national interest in addressing it with real solutions that work. Now our elected leaders need to make it a priority.

Now I get it … most people don’t want to talk about addiction, mental illness and suicide at the holiday gathering. And I’m with you on that.

But as we reflect upon what we are grateful for and we think about our priorities for the new year, I think we can all agree that every family, every community, every state and the nation as a whole can and must do more to take care of each other. We are all in this together. And we will be better and stronger if we commit to making sure those in need of mental health and addiction treatment are able to access it and get well. After all, addiction and mental illness are equal opportunity, nonpartisan diseases.

So, if your family gathering begins to go off the political rails, why not change the conversation by reminding everyone of our shared belief: we must do a better job when it comes to providing mental health and addiction treatment services in this country. Let’s agree on that … and hopefully the rest of your holiday gathering is a pleasant one!