BAINBRIDGE – Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) announced that he has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to support local mental health and addiction treatment facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Act would establish the Coronavirus Mental Health and Addiction Assistance Network to support local mental health and addiction facilities and provide it with $100 million in emergency funds. These grants may be used to initiate or expand programs offering mental health and substance use disorder services during or in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including support groups, telephone helplines and websites, training programs, telehealth services, and outreach services.
“Issues surrounding mental health and substance abuse are complex and an unfortunate challenge for so many families across Ohio,” said Joyce, Vice Chair of the House Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. “This pandemic has brought fear, uncertainty, stress, and many other overwhelming emotions to those who face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder and made it more difficult for them to access care. That’s why I am proud to cosponsor this important legislation to help Ohioans manage their mental health conditions and substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, we must support our loved ones, friends and neighbors who are struggling as we continue to fight through this pandemic so that we can come out on the other side stronger and more united.”
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 45% of adults say the outbreak has affected their mental health. Additionally, recovery from addiction is more difficult during months of social isolation and heightened anxiety. Resources for recovering individuals have also become harder to access as many peer-support group meetings and face-to-face visits with addiction professionals have been put on hold. Many community health centers, which provide essential treatment and recovery services, have seen revenues decline sharply, inhibiting their ability to operate at full strength and serve the individuals who rely on their support. You can learn more about the bill here.
While drug overdose deaths dropped last year for the first time since 1990, that progress is now at risk of becoming undone. Counties across Ohio have reported increases in overdoses and overdose-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. From January to April 15, Franklin County saw a 50% increase in fatal overdoses with 62 people dying of overdoses in the month of April alone. Montgomery County officials reported 37 overdoses in March, the county’s highest monthly total in three years. In that same month, another 35 overdoses were reported in Hamilton County. Coshocton County had 10 overdose deaths between March 15 and April 15, more than double the amount over the same timeframe last year.
On May 8, 2020, Joyce sent a letter to the President, highlighting how the unique circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated the opioid crisis and made fighting the scourge of addiction much more difficult. In his letter, Joyce states that as the nation continues the urgent work of slowing the spread of COVID-19, experts must also commit themselves to mitigating the detrimental impact this deadly virus has had on the country’s ability to combat the opioid crisis. You can read the full letter here.