Legislation introduced during Mental Health Awareness Month
With an increased need for mental health and substance use disorder services due to the pandemic, the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act will expand these services
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced bipartisan legislation directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to establish a Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Network. These grants can go to eligible entities – including Indian tribes, qualified nonprofit organizations, and providers offering appropriate mental health and addiction services.
The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act includes an emergency appropriation of $100 million to initiate or expand programs offering mental health and substance use disorder services in response to the pandemic, including support groups, telephone helplines and websites, training programs, telehealth services, and outreach services.
“People are grappling with mental health conditions and addiction all across the country and it is critical that we support them— especially as we confront the coronavirus,” Klobuchar said. “Our legislation will expand access to vitally important programs during the pandemic to ensure that people have access to the services, support, and treatment they need.”
“This pandemic has been hard on Americans. Now more than ever, we must prioritize mental health by dedicating resources like telehealth, support groups, and outreach services so people can get the help that they need,” Young said. “I introduced the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act to provide mental health and addiction services and treatment to Hoosiers struggling at home.”
Companion legislation is led in the House of Representatives by Tim Ryan (D-OH) and John Katko (R-NY).
“For many who struggle with mental health and substance abuse disorders, fear of the coronavirus, increased economic hardship, and the challenge of staying home and social distancing have only made existing conditions harder and created new struggles for people across the country. This legislation will provide Americans with the resources and support they need to combat this crisis,” said Congressman Tim Ryan.
“For those struggling with substance use and mental health disorders, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the challenges they face and made it more difficult to access care. That’s why, alongside Congressman Ryan and Senators Klobuchar and Young, I am proud to introduce the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act. By providing $100 million in emergency funds for mental health and substance use disorder treatment and outreach providers, our bipartisan and bicameral legislation will ensure those who need help during the crisis can safely access care,” said Congressman John Katko.
The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act has been endorsed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness; National Alliance on Mental Illness (Minnesota chapter); American Counseling Association; American Society of Addiction Medicine; Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation; American Psychiatric Association; and Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs.
“The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Network legislation was drafted to initiate, expand or sustain programs that provide professional mental health and substance use disorder counseling. This aligns with the mission of the American Counseling Association (ACA). ACA is dedicated to providing mental health access to those in need, especially during this period of COVID-19, when mental health counseling services are so critical. We would like to thank Senator Klobuchar and her staff for reducing the barrier to mental health access for millions of Americans,” said the American Counseling Association.
“As COVID has shown, the country now realizes the need for and is calling for mental health and substance use disorder treatment particularly in the COVID and Post-COVID era. Our communities, now more than ever, need support for mental health and substance use disorder care given the huge toll created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting isolation and economic hardships,” said American Psychiatric Association CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act of 2020 will provided much-needed SAMHSA funding for support groups, helplines, telehealth and other services our patients need now and in the aftermath of COVID-19.”
“We’re seeing and hearing every day from people whose mental health and substance use has been negatively impacted by the pandemic,” said Mark Mishek, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a national nonprofit addiction and mental health treatment leader headquartered in Minnesota. “Senator Klobuchar’s legislation is an important and necessary response to COVID-19 and the growing challenges faced by individuals, families and communities in this unprecedented time.”
“COVID-19 is causing many children and adults to struggle with their mental health. This comes at a time when our mental health system was already not able to meet the needs of people with mental illnesses. NAMI Minnesota is pleased to support Senator Klobuchar’s bill which will support expanding and increasing our mental health system to meet the mental health needs of Americans,” said Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota.
“We know there’s going to be more need for our mental health and addiction services coming. Throughout all this, we are working to get to a place where mental health and addiction are truly viewed as critical parts of healthcare. The introduction of this act and program is an important step in making this change,” said Jin Lee Palen, Executive Director, Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs.
“The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act will provide much-needed programs that are designed to assist people managing addiction during this critical time,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, President, American Society of Addiction Medicine. “The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the risk of relapse and overdose in many parts of the country. Now more than ever, our patients need access to evidence-based services to help manage and treat their addiction. We applaud Senator Klobuchar’s leadership and urge the passage of this critical piece of legislation.”
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 challenges for people across the country. In fact, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 45 percent of adults say the outbreak has affected their mental health, while a separate study estimated that the pandemic could cause as many as 150,000 additional “deaths of despair” from suicide and overdose.
Additional relief is needed to address the growing mental health and addiction crisis in the United States and to advance an effective and comprehensive public health response to the pandemic. The Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act will 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 will 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.