A bipartisan group of members in the House of Representatives have created a task force to address two of the nation’s most severe health crises: mental health and substance use disorder (SUD).
The new Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force aims to promote policies that zero in on rising rates of mental health disorders and SUDs, and its members include Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), David Trone (D-MD) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), in addition to others.
The task force will host regular meetings with stakeholders, attend site visits and create policies meant to save lives by better addressing mental health disorders and SUDs, according to a press release announcing the task force’s formation. The group will also hold an initial roundtable discussion on the effects of the pandemic on mental health and addiction, though they have not yet publicly set a date and location for that.
Several studies have shown a correlation between the pandemic’s progression and the prevalence of mental health issues and SUD nationwide.
Data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a rise in the number of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as an increase in those reporting an unmet mental health need.
Earlier this year, the CDC also reported 81,230 drug-related overdose deaths for the12-month period ending in May 2020, an approximate rise of 18% from the 12-months ending in June 2019. The number was the highest ever recorded for overdose deaths in a one-year stretch.
“The mental health and opioid epidemics sweeping across Pennsylvania and our nation have only been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “The pandemic has created new barriers for our citizens with pre-existing mental illnesses and substance use disorders and generated new issues for our citizens previously unaffected.”
The Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force is the result of a merger between the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force — which was co-chaired by Reps. Fitzpatrick and Custer — and the Freshman Working Group on Addiction, which was established by Rep. Trone.
In the 116th session of Congress, the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force introduced more than two dozen bipartisan bills addressing opioid use disorder (OUD), and the Freshman Working Group on Addiction introducing over 50 bills related to mental health and SUD issues.
“While we have a vaccine for COVID, we will never have a vaccine for addiction and mental health,” Rep. Trone said in the press release. “Recent data shows us that we have no time to waste in the fight against these crises. The Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force is ready to get to work to end the addiction and mental health epidemics and save lives.