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U.S. Senators Manchin Gardner’s bill to help Americans with crisis care, suicide prevention during COVID-19 Pandemic, Opioid Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act which would direct states to utilize five percent of their Mental Health Block Grant for crisis care services – once funding for the program is increased by five percent nationally – allowing states to upgrade crisis care programs and strategies. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) introduced the House of Representatives companion legislation last month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new data on drug overdose deaths in 2019, which reached a record high. In 2019, there were 70,980 reported deaths from overdoses, passing the high of 70,699 deaths in 2017.

“We are experiencing an epidemic in the middle of a pandemic, and our fellow Americans need help. In 2019 alone, 70,980 Americans died from drug overdoses which is heartbreaking and unacceptable, and the COVID-19 pandemic is only making this crisis worse,” said Senator Manchin. “A recent report projects that 75,000 Americans are at risk of overdose death or suicide due to COVID-19 pressures, with West Virginia at the top for potential per capita rates of deaths. As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must remember the other health crisis affecting our nation. Today, Senator Gardner and I introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act to address this crisis by providing increased funding for crisis care services including call centers, mobile services, and stabilization programs. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and both chambers to include this legislation in future COVID-19 response efforts to help our fellow Americans during their time of need.”

“I’ve held countless meetings and roundtables with families, students, mental health care professionals, law enforcement officials, and others to address our state’s mental health needs. Colorado had tragically high suicide and drug overdose death rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result of the ongoing Public Health Emergency, our state’s behavioral health needs have only increased,” said Senator Gardner. “Crisis care services and strategies help ensure that individuals get effective care in a timely manner and play a critical role in preventing these devastating outcomes. I am proud to join Senator Manchin to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will support crisis care services and save lives.”

In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 45% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus, 28% of people experiencing significant disruption in their lives due to coronavirus reported major negative mental health impacts, compared to 15% of those experiencing just some disruption and 10% of those with little or no disruption.

“Too many individuals who experience a severe mental health crisis find themselves either in costly emergency rooms waiting hours or days for appropriate care, or in jail,” said American Psychiatric Association (APA) CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “The Manchin-Gardner proposal will help our states and local communities create evidence-based interventions so those experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis can quickly receive needed care and avoid unnecessary encounters with the criminal justice system.”

Background information on the Crisis Care Improvement and Suicide Prevention Act can be found here.

A timeline of Senator Manchin’s efforts to address the opioid crisis can be found here.

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