WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the COVID-19 Mental Health Research Act to study the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of Americans, including health care workers, children and adolescents, older adults, and members of racial and ethnic minority groups. This legislation follows recent reports that U.S. cases of depression and anxiety have significantly increased during the pandemic. Companion legislation is led in the House of Representatives by Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and John Katko (R-NY). 

“As we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we must focus not only on physical health, but also on mental health and well-being,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “Health care workers have led our communities through this crisis, with many feeling acute stress and anxiety. Children, adolescents, and seniors have also been uniquely impacted. To understand how we can best support them -- and all Americans -- through this difficult time, we must assess the scope of this mental health crisis and take steps to promote recovery and healing.” 

“From day one of this pandemic, I have been concerned about the impacts on Americans’ mental health, now and in the years to come,” said Sen. Kaine. “I have been especially concerned about our most vulnerable, and have been deeply troubled by the stories I continue to hear from frontline health care providers struggling with burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. This legislation is a crucial first step in helping us understand COVID-19’s impact on providers’ mental health, and helping us identify where additional action may be needed.”

“Rebuilding America after this pandemic will take more than vaccines and concrete, it will take a rigorous focus on the toll this pandemic has taken on every American, especially for our health care workers who continue to serve bravely on the frontlines of this crisis,” said Rep. Tonko. “Every day they show up to work, they risk exposure to this deadly virus and shoulder an unimaginable emotional burden for us, all to keep our families and communities safe. We need to do more to support them and make sure we work to understand even the hidden costs they are bearing. Our Mental Health Research Act undertakes this vital—and frankly overdue—work to examine the mental health impacts of COVID-19 especially for our medical professionals, emergency responders and others. I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to join us in pushing this smart bipartisan legislation forward and deliver hope, understanding and a path forward for the Americans who need it most.”

“The pandemic has had significant negative consequences on the mental health of so many Americans and especially on frontline healthcare providers. That’s why, I’m introducing the COVID-19 Mental Health Research Act,” said Rep. Katko. “This bipartisan, bicameral bill will fund targeted research to strengthen our nation’s mental health response and examine the toll of this pandemic on frontline healthcare workers. The bill will also provide crucial funding for suicide prevention research and assess the long-term impacts of COVID-19 stressors on mental health.”

The COVID-19 Mental Health Research Act would authorize $100 million each year for five years to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to fund targeted research on the mental health consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would support:

  • Research on the mental health impact of the coronavirus pandemic  on health care providers;
  • Research on the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic  stressors on mental health;
  • Research to strengthen the mental health response to the coronavirus pandemic , including adapting to or providing additional services for new or increasing mental health needs;
  • Research on the reach, efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of digital mental health interventions;
  • Research on the effectiveness of strategies for implementation and delivery of evidence-based mental health interventions and services for underserved populations;
  • Research on suicide prevention; 
  • Research on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of specific populations - including children, women, older adults, individuals with disabilities, and members of racial and ethnic minority groups; and
  • Research on the impact of the coronavirus on people experiencing long-term symptoms or side effects after infection.

Our nation is facing an unprecedented mental health challenge in response to the coronavirus outbreak. For many people who live with mental illness and substance use disorders, fear of the virus, increased economic hardship, and the challenge of maintaining a safe distance from others have created new mental health and addiction hurdles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use in late June. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll also found that 53% of U.S. adults reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress about the coronavirus.

Last month, Klobuchar, along with Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), reintroduced the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act to address the growing mental health and addiction crisis in the U.S. by helping people connect with the services and care they need to manage mental health and substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation would also direct the Department of Health and Human Services to gather data to better understand the effects of the pandemic on mental health and addiction and make recommendations on how to improve future mental health and addiction response efforts.