Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force Holds Discussion with ONDCP Acting Director Regina LaBelle
Washington, September 23, 2021
**The Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, co-chaired by Kuster, Fitzpatrick, Trone, and Herrera Beutler, holds regular roundtable discussions to hear from care providers, experts, and patients**
**Next week, the Bipartisan Task Force will unveil its 2021 Legislative Agenda**
Washington, D.C. — Today, the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), David Trone (D-MD), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), hosted a Member discussion with Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, Regina LaBelle. During the discussion, the Members heard from Acting Director LaBelle about actions the Biden-Harris administration has taken to address addiction and the overdose epidemic, President Biden’s Drug Policy Priorities for Year One, and steps that Congress can take to prevent youth substance use disorder.
Task Force members had the opportunity to ask about the administration’s recommendations for addressing fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances (FRS), expanding access and information to treatment for substance use disorder, and efforts to disrupt international and domestic drug trafficking. Data shows that 93,000 Americans died of an overdose in 2020, the highest number ever recorded over 12 months.
“I was glad to meet with the Task Force and hear directly from Members about what is happening in their districts,” said Acting Director LaBelle. “Today’s meeting was also an opportunity to discuss actions the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to address addiction and the overdose epidemic, as well as its ongoing work to reduce the supply of drugs. We also discussed the urgent need for Congress to fund President Biden’s budget request to expand access to substance use prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services. I look forward to continuing to work with Congress to support evidence-based solutions that can help save lives.”
“The public health and economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges in accessing and receiving treatment for those struggling with addiction and substance use disorder — making the ongoing work of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force more important than ever,” said Rep. Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force. “Today’s discussion with Acting ONDCP Director LaBelle gave Members from both sides of the aisle an opportunity to address the impact of COVID-19 on the addiction crisis and coordinate legislative efforts to expand treatment options, reduce overdose deaths, and put people on the road to recovery. When those who are struggling with addiction or mental health challenges have access to the resources and support they need to recover and thrive, our families, communities, workforce, and economy stand to benefit. I’m proud of the work we have accomplished over the past seven years to address the evolving addiction crisis, and look forward to the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force continuing to lead congressional action on the substance misuse epidemic."
The co-chairs were joined by: Representatives Grace Meng, John Rutherford, Susie Lee, Donald Norcross, Ted Deutch, Seth Moulton, Paul Tonko, Jimmy Panetta, and Buddy Carter.
Rep. Kuster is leading the charge in Congress to combat the addiction and overdose crisis in New Hampshire and across the country. She introduced the STOP Fentanyl Act, a comprehensive, public health response to fentanyl and FRS. This legislation would bolster fentanyl research and education, invest in treatment for substance use disorder, and improve public health data and law enforcement training for fentanyl detection. Rep. Kuster also introduced the bipartisan Humane Correctional Health Care Act to repeal the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion policy and ensure that incarcerated individuals receive the behavioral health care they so desperately need.
The Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force merges Trone’s Freshmen Working Group on Addiction and the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, which was co-chaired by Reps. Kuster and Fitzpatrick in the 116th Congress and founded by Rep. Kuster in 2015.
The purpose of the new Task Force is to combine efforts to make the most progress possible on addiction and mental health in the 117th Congress. The forthcoming 2021 Legislative Agenda will address these dual public health crises that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The group will host regular meetings with stakeholders, attend site visits, and create policies that will save lives.