Gillibrand wants more funding for substance abuse, mental health services

Posted 18 November 2020 at 3:41 pm

Isolation, financial stress in pandemic contribute to rising overdoses

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged Senate leadership to include robust funding for substance use disorder and mental health care services in the next coronavirus relief package.

Gillibrand called for robust emergency funds for providers of mental health and addiction treatment services to maintain operations, and ensure stability for the duration of the economic and public health crisis.

“For many families the emotional strains and stress of the holidays are compounded when a loved one suffers from mental health and substance use disorders,” Gillibrand said. “And, as the pandemic has exacerbated our country’s addiction crisis, individuals and their families are in even greater need of resources to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

Social isolation, increased financial stress, loss of work, lack of structured time, and daily stress and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated mental health issues and substance use disorders and caused overdoses across the country to nearly double.

Now, the emotional strains and stress of the holidays threaten to compound this crisis. In Albany and Rensselaer counties, overdose deaths have increased by more than 40% compared to last year. In Erie County, the number of overdose deaths increased by 77% compared to 2019 and in Onondaga County there were twice as many opioid deaths in the first half of 2020 as there were in the first half of 2019.

“Many mental health care and substance use disorder support services are faced with the heavy burden of helping Americans in need with limited resources,” Gillibrand said. “Shoring up these programs with robust funding, and the passage of my bipartisan Family Support Services for Addiction Act, would ensure that nonprofits and organizations supporting those recovering from substance use and their families can keep their doors open.”

Additionally, the Covid-19 crisis has interrupted traditional care services and many mental health and addiction support providers, which were overburdened before the pandemic, are facing financial strain and at risk of shutting their doors.

In New York, community behavioral health organizations may have to close within the next few months without financial assistance and providers have had to make tough decisions with limited resources, including payroll cuts and rationing life-saving supplies. Supplemental emergency funding in the next legislative package is critical for these providers to maintain operations, ensure stability, and continue serving their communities for the duration of the crisis. Advocates, including the National Council for Behavioral Health, estimate nearly $40 billion in emergency funds is needed for providers of mental health and addiction treatment services.