Press Releases

Reps. Kuster, Curtis Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging Greater Flexibility in Opioid Grants During COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington, D.C., June 2, 2020

This week, Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and John Curtis (UT-03) were joined by a bipartisan group of 17 Members of Congress in sending a letter to the Honorable Elinore McCance-Katz, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), advocating for greater flexibilities in Substance Use Disorder (SUD) grants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The members also request that SAMHSA respond on how they are working with local communities to reduce substance use disorder, especially during the COVID-19 health crisis.

“Our dedicated elected leaders, public health experts, health care providers, pharmacists, addiction counselors, educators, and community advocates are tireless in their efforts to provide the necessary resources to get people back on their feet,” the Members wrote in their letter. “Many of their efforts are being fueled by grant funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made possible by the passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act in October 2018.”

The Members added, “However, to effectively work together to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to reduce substance use disorders (SUD) in their communities, we encourage SAMHSA to continue to offer greater flexibilities in SUD grants. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the economic downturn, rising unemployment, and other challenges associated with a second public health crisis can contribute to higher incidence rates of individuals grappling with SUD and mental health disorders. We are hoping that, with your partnership, the federal government can offer additional assistance to these communities.”

In addition to Representatives Kuster and Curtis, the letter was signed by Representatives David McKinley, P.E. (WV-01), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL), Chris Stewart (UT-02), Ben McAdams (UT-04), Troy Balderson (OH-12), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M (OH-02), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Darren Soto (FL-09), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Charlie Crist (FL-13), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), David P. Joyce (OH-14) and Rob Bishop (UT-01).

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz,

We would like to express our gratitude for your hard work, and hope for your future help, to continue combating the opioid crisis. No communities are immune to this growing public health crisis that continues to devastate families and communities across the United States.

Our home states are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to eradicate this epidemic. Our dedicated elected leaders, public health experts, health care providers, pharmacists, addiction counselors, educators, and community advocates are tireless in their efforts to provide the necessary resources to get people back on their feet. Many of their efforts are being fueled by grant funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made possible by the passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act in October 2018.

This comprehensive law provides funding for providers to more easily offer Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders, gives states more flexibility to cover long-term mental health care services, and significantly expands telemedicine services to treat addiction. These services are especially critical for rural communities.

However, to effectively work together to develop long-term, sustainable solutions to reduce substance use disorders (SUD) in their communities, we encourage SAMHSA to continue to offer greater flexibilities in SUD grants. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the economic downturn, rising unemployment, and other challenges associated with a second public health crisis can contribute to higher incidence rates of individuals grappling with SUD and mental health disorders. We are hoping that, with your partnership, the federal government can offer additional assistance to these communities. Please kindly respond to the following questions at your earliest convenience:

  1. Are you continuing to work with local communities to provide as much flexibility as possible to help these leaders treat addiction? If so, how?
  2. If not, how can Congress enhance the work of these local leaders and health experts for them to develop more customized solutions that fit the needs of their communities?
  3. Is more Congressional action needed to achieve this objective?
  4. What direct actions are HHS and SAMHSA taking to prevent a second opioid crisis that could follow the COVID-19 pandemic? Would additional flexibilities in federal grant programs help to prevent a second crisis?

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We know our constituents deeply appreciate your commitment to keeping Americans safe, healthy, and for your efforts to repair the emotional scars endured by communities as a result of the opioid crisis. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

John R. Curtis                                                                      Ann McLane Kuster
Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

David B. McKinley P.E.                                                       Suzanne Bonamici 
Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress


Brian Fitzpatrick                                                                   Lisa Blunt Rochester
Member of Congress                                                           Member of Congress

Chris Stewart                                                                       Ben McAdams
Member of Congress                                                           Member of Congress

Troy Balderson                                                                    Tim Ryan
Member of Congress                                                           Member of Congress

Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M                                                        Ruben Gallego
Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

Darren Soto                                                                        Sean Patrick Maloney
Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

Charlie Crist                                                                        David N. Cicilline
Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

Tom O’Halleran                                                                   David P. Joyce
Member of Congress                                                          Member of Congress

Rob Bishop
Member of Congress

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