A group of 88 organizations recently sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and leadership of the U.S. House and Senate urging Congress and the Trump administration to address long-term mental health and substance misuse treatment as part of COVID-19 pandemic response.
Social isolation and anxiety are expected to increase during the pandemic, also increasing the need for mental health and substance misuse care, the letter said.
The group urges several measures including increasing funding for the Disaster Distress Helpline; that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration should issue guidance to support remote recovery support groups; that Congress should ensure all government health plans extended supplies and/or mail order refills of prescriptions; that Congress should allow for all current discretionary and block grant funds for mental health and substance use programs; and that Congress should pass several pending legislation aimed at improving addiction and mental health access and services.
In addition, the group urges Congress to pass funding to strengthen crisis services and surveillance; and to Health and Human Services to consider the mental health and substance use effects of future pandemics and national emergencies.
Loneliness and social isolation are estimated to shorten a person’s lifespan by 15 years, the group said.