Kuster Leads Roundtable Discussions with Leaders on Health Care, Mental Health, & Substance Use Disorder

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 3:00 PM to 3:00 PM

**Rep. Kuster held two virtual roundtable discussions with experts and providers to hear updates on COVID-19 in health care and addiction treatment communities**

**View Rep. Kuster’s conversation with mental health and SUD experts here**

**View Rep. Kuster’s conversation with health care providers here**

Concord, NH - Today, Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) held two virtual roundtable discussions with leaders and providers in the substance misuse, mental health, and health care fields to receive updates on the impacts of COVID-19. Kuster’s first roundtable focused on substance use disorder and mental health during the coronavirus public health emergency. The second virtual roundtable provided an opportunity for Kuster to hear from health care leaders and providers from New Hampshire hospitals, community health centers, doctors, nurses, and home health care providers about their work and challenges amid the pandemic. 

“The health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has created significant challenges for Granite State health care, mental health, and substance use treatment providers -- at the same time, we are seeing increases in substance abuse and mental illness across New Hampshire,” said Kuster. “From the transition to tele-health care and cancellations of elective procedures, to a lack of personal protective equipment and increasing health needs of our communities - providers have overcome a multitude of obstacles due to COVID-19 in recent months. I was glad to hear from these hard-working Granite Staters, whose insights will continue to guide my work in Congress as we respond to this pandemic. I’m committed to ensuring that communities across New Hampshire can safely access the care and treatment they deserve.”

“In New Hampshire, we have worked for years to build a substance use treatment and recovery system that meets the needs of the ongoing addiction crisis,” said Jake Berry, Vice President of Policy, New Futures. “Without further investment, COVID-19 threatens to undermine the progress we’ve made. Our provider community is resilient, and they are doing all they can to reach those in need, but they need help. For the health of our state, we must further support and invest in our treatment and recovery providers, and help them to maintain their vital services now and into the future.”

“Statewide, our hospitals took unprecedented steps to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included curtailing elective and non-urgent procedures for several months, to ensure the safety and support of their patients and communities,” said Kathy Bizarro-Thunberg, Executive Vice President, New Hampshire Hospital Association. “Consequently, those necessary actions threatened their financial viability due to these changes. It’s estimated that New Hampshire hospitals will suffer nearly $675 million in revenue losses by the end of the year, even with CARES Act funding and other grants received, and these losses are unsustainable. We’re extremely grateful to Representative Kuster and our congressional delegation for their efforts in advocating on behalf of hospitals and health systems, and our frontline heroes, for additional federal support as hospitals navigate through the greatest public health challenge they’ve ever faced.”  

“We are grateful for Congresswoman Kuster’s work on behalf of Granite Staters with her consistent and mindful approach to advocating for those most in need. Health Centers are our health care heroes providing primary health care on the front lines all across our state,” said Tess Kuenning, President and CEO, Bi-State Primary Care Association. “Health Centers have and will continue to provide access to medical, behavioral, oral and dental health care, as a trusted health home. The resources and support from The CARES Act, has allowed Health Centers to remain open, and to provide visits on site, or through telehealth. There has been considerable volatility in Health Center revenue due to COVID-19 over the past months despite very conservative budgeting. Thus, continued support from Congresswoman Kuster is essential in sustaining our primary and public health care infrastructure. With Congresswoman Kuster’s leadership, we look forward to the successful passage of the HEROES Act to assure no disruption to essential primary health care services.” 

Kuster was joined by the following SUD and Mental Health experts in her first roundtable of the day:

  • Shanna Large, Director; SUD Programs and Services, Riverbend Community Mental Health
  • Kathleen Murphy, Senior Vice President; SUD Services, EasterSeals
  • Jake Berry, Vice President of Policy; New Futures
  • Katja Fox, Division of Behavioral Health Director; NH Department of Health and Human Services
  • Kim Bock, Director; NH Coalition of Recovery Residences
  • Susan Stearns, Deputy Director; NAMI - NH
  • Emily Shanahan, Outreach Coordinator; Communities for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth

Later, Kuster was joined by the following health care providers:

  • Kathy Bizarro-Thunberg, Executive Vice President/Federal Relations; NH Hospital Association
  • Don Caruso, President and CEO; Cheshire Medical Center
  • Tess Kuenning, President and CEO; Bi-State Primary Care Association
  • Ed Shanshala, CEO; Ammonoosuc  Health Center
  • Ken Gordon, CEO; Coos Family Health Services
  • Joan Widmer, R.N. and Director; NH Nurses Association
  • Dr. Doug Phelan; Elliot Hospital Family Medicine
  • Dr. Melissa Duxbury; Family Medicine, Southern NH Health
  • Beth Slepian, President and CEO; Concord Regional VNA
  • Deborah Ritcey, CEO; Granite State Independent Living 

Rep. Kuster is the co-chair and founder of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force and has stayed in close contact with addiction treatment and mental health care providers. In June, she and her Task Force colleagues held a virtual discussion on addressing the opioid pandemic and COVID-19. A member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Kuster has led efforts in congress to expand access and parity for tele-health and supported robust funding for our health care system.