Kuster, Fitzpatrick, Trone, Norcross Lead Bipartisan Coalition Urging Congressional Leadership to Fund Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Next COVID Relief Package
Washington, February 5, 2021
Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, Representative Annie Kuster (NH-02), along with the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force Leaders Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), David Trone (D-MD), and Donald Norcross (D-NJ) led a bipartisan coalition of nearly 80 lawmakers to urge congressional leadership to provide $10 billion in funding for mental health disorder and substance use disorder prevention and treatment.
The funding would include $5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant and $5 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant programs. The request follows previous funding approved by Congress for substance use and mental health disorders, including $4.25 billion in the December 2020 omnibus package that was signed into law.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on the health and wellbeing of the American people and our economy, but it has also exacerbated an existing pandemic – untreated mental and behavioral health disorders, including substance misuse,” said Rep. Kuster. “The coronavirus public health crisis has made it more difficult for people struggling with substance use disorder and mental health challenges to get the support and treatment they need, and additional funding is badly needed in New Hampshire and across the country. Previous funding and relief bills have included important funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), but as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more is needed. I join my colleagues in calling for an additional $10 billion in funding for SAMHSA to be included in the next relief bill. This cannot wait.”
"As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, it is incumbent upon us to continue to raise awareness and provide support for our community members battling addiction and mental health issues," said Rep. Fitzpatrick. "The pandemic has created new barriers for our citizens with pre-existing mental illness and substance use disorders and generated new issues for citizens previously not affected. From our children to our grandparents, COVID is crippling people across our nation, and we must act now to help our constituents. We can only do so with full funding for essential programs like the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program (SABG) and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant Program (MHBG). While Congress has made great strides in funding these programs in previous COVID-response packages, we must ensure these programs are provided with the additional funds and tools needed to provide the greatest possible assistance to our communities across the country."
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the growing number of Americans dealing with mental health and substance use disorders, and it’s time we address these crises head on,” said Rep. Trone. “We will never have a vaccine to address mental health or addiction, which is why we need consistent, long-term funding to support those across our country that are impacted by these diseases. I want to thank my colleagues for recognizing the importance of coming together to request this additional funding in the COVID relief package as the next step towards addressing these growing epidemics.”
“While our nation continues to battle COVID-19, we know the addiction and mental health crisis has not gone away. Rather, it has only been inflamed by the pandemic,” said Rep. Norcross. “Addiction has already taken the lives of far too many people, and resources are needed to support families impacted by addiction and save lives.”
The signers include: Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), David Trone (D-MD), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Katie Porter (D-CA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Ruben Gallego, Paul Tonko (D-NY), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), André Carson (D-IN), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Susan Wild (D-PA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-GU), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Sean Casten (D-IL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Jared Golden (D-ME), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Angie Craig (D-MN), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Tom O'Halleran (D-AZ), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Stacey E. Plaskett (D-VI), Conor Lamb (D-PA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Mike Levin (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Jason Crow (D-CO), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Thomas R. Suozzi, Gwen Moore (D-WI), Albio Sires (D-NJ), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Sharice L. Davids (D-KS), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rick Larsen (D-WA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Greg Stanton (D-AZ), Frank J. Mrvan (D-), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Jim Costa (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Anthony G. Brown (D-MD), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM), and Ted Deutch (D-FL).
A copy of the letter can be viewed here.
The text of the letter can be found below:
February 4, 2021
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Speaker Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Republican Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell,
At the onset of 2021 and a new presidential administration, we still find our country battling dual pandemics – COVID-19 and untreated mental and behavioral health disorders. While the pandemic has resulted in expanded access to telehealth, it has also spurred increases in substance use, overdoses, depression, and anxiety. Studies have found that worry and stress related to COVID have had a major negative impact on many Americans’ mental health, particularly for those who have lost income or a job. In June, over 40% of surveyed adults reported a negative mental or behavioral health condition related to COVID, including 31% who reported anxiety or depression symptoms, 13% who started or increased their substance use, and 11% who seriously considered suicide over the past month. It is critical that we address this troubling trend.
We are grateful for the funding that has already been provided to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in previous COVID-response packages, including $4.25 billion in the December 2020 bipartisan omnibus package, but more assistance is needed. We respectfully request that the next COVID response bill include $10 billion in funding for SAMHSA, dedicated to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant and Community Mental Health Services Block Grant programs.
Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program
We request that $5 billion be designated for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) program. The CDC reported over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States between July 2019 and June 2020. This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. While Congress has made great strides in addressing the COVID-19 response, we cannot ignore the worsening addiction crisis. SABG provides funding to states and territories to plan, implement, and assess activities that both prevent and treat substance use disorder. This funding is necessary to increase prevention efforts and ensure that individuals with substance use disorders can receive life-saving treatment, despite the additional barriers posed by COVID-19.
Community Mental Health Services Block Grant Program
We request that $5 billion be designated for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) program. Of the more than 30% of American adults who recently reported having symptoms consistent with an anxiety and/or depressive disorder, over 20% reported needing, but not receiving, mental health counseling or therapy. Based on increases in depressive disorder and unmet mental health needs, as well as data collected during the 2003 SARS epidemic pointing to the likelihood of increased suicides in a number of demographic groups, many researchers remain concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in an increase in suicides. MHBG provides comprehensive, community-based mental health services to adults and children and supports implementation of a comprehensive, community-based mental health system. Given the surge of new mental health needs due to COVID-19, it is imperative that we provide robust funding to expand access to effective mental health treatments.
As COVID-19 continues into the new year, we must not lose sight of the addiction and mental health crisis we faced before the onset of the pandemic, and which has only been exacerbated by it. These behavioral and mental health services are crucial to save lives and improve Americans’ well-being. Thank you for your consideration of this request.