Press Releases

Kuster, Katko Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Smaller Organizations on Frontlines of Opioid Crisis as COVID-19 Pandemic Continues

Concord, N.H., April 27, 2020

Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH) and John Katko (R-NY) introduced new legislation to create emergency grants for states and community-based organizations that serve individuals with substance use disorder (SUD). This bipartisan legislation will help to address the dual public health crisis of COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic. As we continue to implement physical distancing to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and protect the health and well-being of our communities, this bill will provide additional funding to support smaller organizations on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has far-reaching implications that stretch beyond the virus itself,” said Kuster. “As we work to slow the spread of coronavirus, many people are struggling to cope with the immense stress of this public health and economic crisis. For those who are living with substance use disorder, this can be an especially challenging time. As we are seeing an increase in substance misuse, this health emergency has made it more difficult for many to get the treatment that they need. This legislation will help ensure that Granite Staters who are at risk of substance misuse have access to the care and support they need including telehealth options to stay healthy during this uncertain time. I’m proud to join with Representative Katko to introduce this commonsense bipartisan bill.” 

“Local substance use disorder providers and nonprofits are grappling with an increase in the number of individuals misusing substances as well as safety precautions that make treatment and outreach more difficult during this pandemic,” said Rep. Katko. “I am proud to join Representative Kuster in introducing bipartisan legislation that will create emergency grants for counties and community-based organizations that serve individuals with substance use disorders. By providing emergency support, we will ensure counties and local organizations have the ability to continue conducting outreach and providing assistance to those struggling with substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“New Hampshire’s addiction crisis isn’t taking a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, and our substance misuse organizations are now battling two public health crises at once,” said Michele Merritt, President and CEO of New Futures, New Hampshire’s leading health policy and advocacy organization. “Ensuring immediate and direct access to treatment is more important now than ever.  If we are to protect the gains we've made against the addiction crisis, we must get our treatment providers with the resources they need to continue to reach individuals and families in need, now and into the future.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), communities across the United States will experience increases in depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief as a result of the pandemic. Because of this, there is an expected increase in substance misuse as lives are impacted by the health and economic consequences of COVID-19. This bipartisan legislation would provide much-needed support for smaller organizations to continue outreach and education to prevent drug misuse, as well as increased funding for telehealth.

Rep. Kuster is the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, which announced its 2020 Legislative Agenda earlier this year. At the beginning of April, Rep. Kuster sent a letter to New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, urging him to work to ensure that Granite Staters struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) can get the care and support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.