en. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said funds from the CARES Act relief bill should be used to tackle the growing mental health
crisis and drug abuse brought on by the CCP virus pandemic.
Hawley sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar on Monday sharing his concerns over the data that shows a rise in drug abuse and mental health issues correlated to the start of the pandemic.
“I am concerned that increases in social isolation, anxiety, and despair due to the pandemic may be contributing to surges in drug addiction,” wrote Hawley. “It appears that the coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a rise in mental health disorders, a development that deserves serious scrutiny.”
The Missouri senator noted that surveys have found about half of all adults say they have had some adverse effect on their mental health since the lockdowns began, such as increased anxiety and depression. Hawley called on Azar to use previously allotted funds to increase programs to support state and local governments’ mental health efforts.
“As you know, in the CARES Act, Congress appropriated $425 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within HHS to boost mental health and substance abuse treatment services during the pandemic,” Hawley wrote in his letter to Azar.
SAMHSA’S assistant secretary, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, said in May that the ill-effects of stay-at-home orders across the country on mental health will be longterm.
“We know that the longer the duration of these orders, the greater the intensity of the mental health problems experienced. We also know that these symptoms persist for years to come,” McCance-Katz said during a cabinet meeting at the White House to discuss the Effects of Stay-at-Home Practices on Mental Health. “Even once quarantine is lifted the data tell us that when the lives of adults, children, and families are drastically changed for an extended length of time. For many, anxiety, depression, and stress disorders will become manifest and will persist.”
McCance-Katz told cabinet members that a lot more will need to be done to mitigate the ill effects of the pandemic on mental health.
“If we ignore the reality of the enormous mental health strain we’ve put on our citizens on the backdrop of an already overburdened mental healthcare system, I’m saddened but certain that the next major public health crisis of our time will be that of mental and substance use disorders, and it is not far behind,” McCance-Katz cautioned at the time.
Noting the actions already taken by the agency, such as disbursing the funds to health clinics in Missouri and establishing a grant program aimed at preventing suicide, Hawley urged the agency to do more to stem the problem.
“I ask that you build upon these previous efforts and engage all appropriate divisions within the Department to develop guidelines and resources to assist state health departments, local officials, and practitioners seeking to treat mental health disorders and drug addiction in light of the coronavirus pandemic,” Hawley wrote.