Representatives want emergency grants for smaller organizations battling opioid crisis

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Two U.S. Representatives have introduced new legislation to create emergency grants for smaller organizations battling the opioid crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reps. Annie Kuster (D-NH) and John Katko (R-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to address concerns arising out of the dual opioid and COVID-19 health crises. Kuster, the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, said the response to the COVID-19 outbreak has hindered people’s ability to get needed treatment. Physical distancing and other measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus are limiting some patients’ ability to get the treatment they need.

Kuster and Katko’s bill would provide additional support to smaller organizations providing frontline care to opioid use disorder patients.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has far-reaching implications that stretch beyond the virus itself,” Kuster said. “As we work to slow the spread of coronavirus, many people are struggling to cope with the immense stress of this public health and economic crisis. For those who are living with substance use disorder, this can be an especially challenging time. As we are seeing an increase in substance misuse, this health emergency has made it more difficult for many to get the treatment that they need. This legislation will help ensure that Granite Staters who are at risk of substance misuse have access to the care and support they need, including telehealth options to stay healthy during this uncertain time. I’m proud to join with Representative Katko to introduce this commonsense, bipartisan bill.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the short-term effects of the pandemic and the efforts to combat it will cause an increase in anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief. This will also cause an increase in substance misuse, the agency said.

Kuster and Katko said the legislation would support smaller organizations as they continue to prevent drug misuse, as well as increase the funding for those organizations for telehealth.

“Local substance use disorder providers and nonprofits are grappling with an increase in the number of individuals misusing substances as well as safety precautions that make treatment and outreach more difficult during this pandemic,” Katko said. “I am proud to join Representative Kuster in introducing bipartisan legislation that will create emergency grants for counties and community-based organizations that serve individuals with substance use disorders. By providing emergency support, we will ensure counties and local organizations have the ability to continue conducting outreach and providing assistance to those struggling with substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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