Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, October 19, 2021


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:07 P.M. EDT

MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  All right, a couple of items for all of you at the top.  With the pandemic taking a toll on so many young people, today we released a comprehensive overview of actions in the administration that we’re taking to improve access and care for youth mental health and substance use conditions, including new resources to address youth mental health challenges. 

These actions include:

Investing in direct service programs.  The American Rescue Plan provided historic funding levels to expanded services that link children and youth to needed services in their communities.  This includes efforts like the Pediatric Mental har- — Health Care Ac- — Access program and expanding Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.

Increasing school-based behavioral health supports through relief funding to help schools hire school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and other health professionals to address the mental health needs of students.

The Department of Education also released this morning the most comprehensive resource on mental health it has ever published, with real-world examples and strategies for how schools can address these needs.

HHS and MTV have also just announced that they’ll be hosting a youth mental health forum early next year, which will engage young people directly in identifying solutions to drive mental health action.

This is just the beginning of our efforts.

Also, today — the President’s executive order on competition called for improving the affordability and accessibility of hearing aids, and today the FDA took the next important step towards making them available over the counter at pharmacies and other regular retail stores without needing a prescription, a medical exam, or a fitting.

Building on bipartisan legislation led by Secretary Grassley and Senator — Senator Grassley — sorry — and Senator Warren, the rules issued today will help millions of Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss get cheaper and more convenient access to hearing aids. 

About 37.5 million American adults have trouble hearing, but just one fifth of them use hearing aids, in part because they’re so expensive and inconvenient to get.

The goal is to cut the red tape and allow more companies to compete to sell hearing aids.  We’re hopeful that the rules will be finalized next year.  And with increased competition, expect hearing aids to cost hundreds instead of thousands of dollars.

Finally, just wanted to give you a brief preview of the President’s trip tomorrow.  Tomorrow he’s traveling to his hometown — or one of his hometowns, I guess — of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to highlight the need for his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and Build Back Better Agenda.

He will talk about growing up in Scranton and the way his experience there influenced his values, and his belief that we need an economy that works for working people, like those in Scranton, instead of the wealthiest Americans on Wall Street.

The President will explain how these values are represented in his Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and Build Back Better Agenda, which will invest in our physical and human infrastructure and help working families like those he grew up with in Scranton.

He will also emphasize, as you heard him do in Michigan last week, how his agenda makes the United States more competitive with China and around the world, and can help America lead again on infrastructure — roads, highways, bridges, ports, and airports — and people, including education, research and development, and childcare.

The President’s infrastructure bill helps us rebuild our country, replace lead water pipes, expand access to high-speed Internet, invest in climate resilience, and create good-paying union jobs

One other item — sorry.  Last one.  Lots of things going on today.  Some good news on the supply chain front.  Union Pacific Railroad just announced its facility serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will now operate 24/7 to help move containers out of LA and Long Beach. 

And just yesterday, the Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said that we have already cut in half the amount of cargo that is sitting on their docks for 13 days or longer.  That is serious progress.

And this commitment from the railroad is just the latest step towards a 24/7 supply chain, and the result of important partnership between business, laborshi- — labor, and the port leadership. 

And also, welcome back to Kristen Welker, back as a fierce —

Q    Thank you, Jen.

MS. PSAKI:  — momma journalist.  And we’re waving a hello to your beautiful daughter, too.  (Applause.)

Q    Thank you. 

MS. PSAKI:  Welcome back.

Q    Thank you so much. 

MS. PSAKI:  She’s not old enough to watch yet, but — (laughter) — hopefully. 

Q    She’s napping.

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah, she’s napping. 

Okay.  And, Darlene, why don’t you kick us off?

Q    Thank you.  Just a few questions about Rahm Emanuel’s confirmation hearing tomorrow.  How much weight did the President place on Emanuel’s handling of the Laquan McDonald police murder — involved murder before offering him the ambassadorship of Japan?

MS. PSAKI:  The President nominated Rahm Emanuel to serve as ambassador to Japan because he’s somebody who has a record of public service, both in Congress, serving as a public official in the White House, and certainly also as the mayor of Chicago.  And he felt he was somebody who could best represent the United States in Japan.

Q    How does the White House respond to some of the criticism of the nomination?  Specifically, from — there are some liberal House members who are unhappy about it.  And I know House members don’t have a role in the confirmation hearing tomorrow. 

There’s the NAACP.  There are activists in Chicago.  They’re all saying that the nomination is out of step with the values of the President, who has called for a comprehensive and meaningful police report.  So, how do you square those two?

MS. PSAKI:  The President’s record, commitment to police reform speaks for itself.  It is something he would like to get done; he would like to sign it into law.  It is far overdue, and it is a priority for him in his administration. 

At the same time, he selects and has nominated a range of ambassadors to serve the United States overseas because of their qualifications, whether it’s from business, public service, or other reasons that would make them qualify for these positions.

Q    And then lastly on that: Presumably, the President would have spoken with Rahm Emanuel at some point during the process.  Did they talk about the McDonald case?

MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have any record of him speaking with him necessarily…


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