Senators propose bill to provide crisis care for opioid addiction during COVID

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced legislation Wednesday that would direct states to use five percent of their Mental Health Block Grants for crisis care services.

Once the block grant program’s budget is increased by five percent nationally, the states would be able to use that extra money to upgrade crisis care programs and strategies, if the bill, the Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act, passes.

A similar bill was introduced into the House of Representatives last month by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL).

“We are experiencing an epidemic in the middle of a pandemic, and our fellow Americans need help. In 2019 alone, 70,980 Americans died from drug overdoses which is heartbreaking and unacceptable, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only making this crisis worse,” Manchin said. “A recent report projects that 75,000 Americans are at risk of overdose death or suicide due to COVID-19 pressures, with West Virginia at the top for potential per capita rates of deaths. As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember the other health crisis affecting our nation.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths reached a high of 70,980 in 2019, surpassing the high of 70,699 overdose deaths in 2017.

“I’ve held countless meetings and roundtables with families, students, mental health care professionals, law enforcement officials, and others to address our state’s mental health needs. Colorado had tragically high suicide and drug overdose death rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result of the ongoing Public Health Emergency, our state’s behavioral health needs have only increased,” Gardner said. “Crisis care services and strategies help ensure that individuals get effective care in a timely manner and play a critical role in preventing these devastating outcomes.”

The problems facing Americans and their mental health are even stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 45 percent of American adults reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted because of the coronavirus, with 28 percent experiencing significant disruption in their lives resulting in major negative mental health impacts.

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