U. S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) announced this week that he will be co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to establish a mental health and addiction network to help those suffering from substance use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act would establish the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Network funded by $100 million in emergency funds. The act would provide mental health and addiction treatment facilities with grants to initiate and expand mental health and substance use disorder services, including support groups, telephone helplines and websites, training programs, telehealth services, and outreach services.
“Issues surrounding mental health and substance abuse are complex and an unfortunate challenge for so many families across Ohio,” said Joyce, vice chair of the House Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. “This pandemic has brought fear, uncertainty, stress, and many other overwhelming emotions to those who face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder and made it more difficult for them to access care. That’s why I am proud to co-sponsor this important legislation to help Ohioans manage their mental health conditions and substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, we must support our loved ones, friends, and neighbors who are struggling as we continue to fight through this pandemic so that we can come out on the other side stronger and more united.”
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 45 percent of adults say the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. Research also indicates that the pandemic is having a negative impact on those recovering from addiction by making access to treatment more difficult, and making resources like peer support groups and face-to-face visits harder to access. The effect of social isolation and heightened anxiety may cause individuals to return to substance use, or increase their drug use.
Additionally, community health centers, where many substance use disorder patients get their treatment services, have seen revenues decline in the wake of the pandemic, inhibiting their ability to deliver services.
In Ohio, drug overdose-related deaths are increasing. In Franklin County, 62 people died from overdose-related deaths in April. From Jan. 1 to April 15, the county reported a 50 percent increase in overdose-related deaths. Montgomery County officials reported 37 overdose deaths in March, the highest total for a single month in three years. Coshocton County reported 10 overdose deaths between March 15 and April 15, more than twice the rate of the same period in 2019.