2020 Presidential Primary Candidate Survey on Disability
Pete Buttigieg’s Responses
Employment: What are your views on paying a subminimum wage based on disability?
I support repealing Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act. No one in the United States should be exempted from minimum wage laws. This practice is indefensible. In office, my priorities will include increasing opportunities for competitive integrated employment and ensuring that federal agencies are fully committed to the employment of veterans with disabilities.
Assistive Technology: What do you plan to do to increase access to assistive technology for people with disabilities who need it to effectively and independently engage in their communities?
Both mainstream and specialized assistive and adaptive communication/information technologies are instrumental for Americans with disabilities to live normal lives – holding jobs, getting an education, and staying in touch with loved ones. As President, I would prioritize the goal of full digital inclusion across all federal agencies in order to ensure that Americans with disabilities can access all the benefits of technology.
We can achieve digital equity by embracing the use of digital content in education, including ensuring ubiquitous Broadband access at school, home, and within the community. It is imperative that we use America’s ability to lead the world in innovation and technological advancement to improve the lives of all Americans, including those with disabilities.
Special Education: How would you propose to strengthen the IDEA when it is reauthorized so that it truly fulfills its stated purpose of preparing children with disabilities for post-secondary education, employment, and independent living, including children with the most significant disabilities?
I would focus on ensuring that students with disabilities have equal access to all of the educational opportunities that students without disabilities have. This includes implementing both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), expanding access to mental health services for children and adolescents, disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline, and expanding opportunities for competitive integrated employment.
One of my key priorities will be to implement measures for the federal government to consistently meet its funding requirements under the IDEA. The federal government committed to paying 40% of the average per student expenditure for special education with the passage of the IDEA. Since then, Congress has not met that 40% commitment even once. Instead, the current federal funding only covers around 15% of the average per student expenditure. I will work with Congress to provide full funding for the IDEA.
Mental Health Services: What is your vision for a system of services to support people with mental illness?
My vision is to normalize mental health and addiction services by better integrating them into our clinical settings as well as our community settings. Mental health is crucial for our health – it’s also at the heart of many other issues, from opioids and gun violence to decreasing life expectancy. As President, I will invest in prevention, early detection, and treatment of mental health, and make it a priority for my overall health agenda.
To start, I believe that we first must create an actual system of care – one where people seeking mental health care do not have to work so hard to find help. The data is troubling – most people who seek care are not able to receive that care. In 2019, this is unacceptable. We will prioritize investments in mental health services, create comprehensive coverage options so that people can afford care, including mental health care, and create incentives that encourage more robust and tighter coordination of care.
Second, I believe that we must work with our educational system, a key partner in this effort. I will partner with schools, colleges, and universities to educate students on the symptoms of mental illness and provide resources to students at risk. I will ensure that schools and campuses have adequate support for onsite mental health resources and services, and that when possible, we provide onsite trainings so that our students know how to talk to and support each other about these issues.
Third, let’s support our law enforcement officers and jail staff who are often the first responders to individuals who are undergoing mental health crises. I will work with Congress to dedicate additional resources for initiatives to help prevent mental health episodes from reaching a crisis point, including successful models of community-based care, mental health and drug courts, and increasing resources for specialized mental health units in our prisons as well as transitional housing that provides support and treatment upon release.
The opioid epidemic in some ways is symptomatic of a deeper mental health and addiction crisis in our country. We need to increase our efforts to enforce mental health parity laws, encourage medical providers to use team-based approaches to pain, not just rely on prescription opioids when not clinically appropriate, and to increase the number of effective treatment programs for opioid use disorder.
I also believe that we must invest heavily in treating veteran mental health and supporting veterans as they return from overseas and reintegrate back into the community as our fellow citizens, friends, neighbors, and family.
Finally, it is crucial that we work to end the stigma around mental health. This starts with structural elements like ending discrimination at work and in schools. I will focus on ensuring that individuals with mental health needs can access the support and resources they need in a timely manner to live empowered, meaningful lives.
New Hampshire, like many states, has an opportunity to help lead in mental health transformation. Thankfully, it appears that New Hampshire is in the process of bringing forward a more complete vision for mental health and addiction through its 10-year mental health plan, which calls for many items consistent with our approach to mental health and addiction – a focus on access for individuals across the full continuum of care, the importance of remaining local, addressing our mental health workforce problem, and on integrating mental health services.
Workforce Shortage: Please explain how you would address this immediate and growing workforce shortage?
In addition to private insurance policies that have not kept up with the times, there are an unprecedented number of people reaching retirement age in need of in-home-support such as home health aides.
I would work with the private sector to address the critical independent living supports and home and community-based services that many private insurance programs do not cover for people with disabilities of all ages.
Good direct care jobs mean that as we age, we can do so with dignity and care. Moreover, by refocusing our resources on turning care jobs into better jobs, we will reshape our economy while lowering health-care costs. The only way we can get better care for our loved ones, better support for our families, and better jobs for caregivers is by shifting how our culture values care.