COVID relief bill includes $4.25M for substance abuse, mental health

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On Monday, Congress passed a sweeping $900 billion stimulus package that would not provide direct help to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic but would also fund necessary mental health and substance abuse treatment services.

According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.5 percent of Americans surveyed in June had symptoms of anxiety, and 24.3 percent had symptoms of depression – a threefold and fourfold increase over the same time the year before.

Additionally, a survey released in September by Recovery Village found that 55 percent of the 1,000 American adults surveyed reported an increase in their past-month alcohol consumption, with 18 percent reporting a significant increase. In New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut hit hardest by COVID-19, past month alcohol consumption was up by 67 percent, with 25 percent reporting a significant increase.

The survey also found that 36 percent of respondents had reported an increase in illicit drug use.

More than half of the respondents said they were using substances to cope with stress, while 39 percent said they used substances to relieve boredom, and 32 percent said they were trying to cope with anxiety and depression.

To address the growing mental health and substance abuse crisis stemming from the pandemic, legislators included $4.25 billion in increased mental health and substance abuse services and support, including $1.6 billion for the Substance Abuse and Prevention Treatment Block Grants.

Other funding priorities included $1.65 billion for the Mental Health Services Block Grant; $600 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics; $50 million for suicide prevention programs; $50 million for Project AWARE to support school-based mental health for children; $240 million for emergency grants to State; and $10 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

The bill requires that not less than $125 million of the funds provided to SAMHSA has to go to tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes.

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