Bills address mental health, substance use during pandemic

Bills address mental health, substance use during pandemic

Two bipartisan bills recently introduced in the U.S. Senate aim to address substance use disorders and behavioral health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Support for Substance Use Disorders Act would provide grants to help organizations provide harm reduction services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would help administer the grants. The agency would also prioritize resources for efforts to reduce stigma, telemedicine and workforce needs, prevention and recovery support, and areas with higher drug overdose death rates.

The Stopping the Mental Health Pandemic Act would authorize grants for community-based entities and tribal organizations as well as state and tribal governments to address behavioral health needs.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) would administer the grants, which would be awarded for suicide prevention, emergency crisis intervention, outreach to underserved communities, training, technology upgrades, and surge capacity needs.

Both grant programs prioritize awards for grantees that intentionally serve populations where COVID-19 has had the most impact and are culturally specific.

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the bills. Smith is a member of the Senate Health Committee.

Reps. Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Katie Porter (D-CA) introduced companion bills in the House.