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WASHINGTON – Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (MI), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Vice Chair Joe Manchin (WV), Senator Chris Murphy (CT), Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) and Senator Tina Smith (MN) today released a report detailing the impact that COVID-19 is having on the mental health of Americans. The report can be found here.
“Our behavioral health centers, which were already overworked and underfunded, are struggling with the massive increased need for their critical services during this pandemic. Health care and other frontline workers are at especially high risk for developing post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental health issues because of the important and incredibly stressful work they are doing to save lives and keep our country safe. It is critical that Congress provide essential funding for behavioral health services so that those with mental health issues and addiction are not left behind,” said Senator Stabenow.
“COVID-19 has put our over-worked, underfunded behavioral health system under even greater strain, and more must be done now to shore up this lifesaving support system, and get help to all who need it,” said Leader Schumer. “Millions of Americans—from our doctors, nurses, and health care providers fighting this crisis on the frontlines, to the millions suffering unemployment—are at increased risk of mental illness, and our communities are experiencing higher rates of suicide, substance use disorder and domestic violence. As the country faces the myriad repercussions of this pandemic, Senate Democrats are fighting to supply behavioral health centers with the resources they need to protect their workers and better support our communities.”
“Mental health services are a critically important piece of our efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes mental health support services for our first responders and healthcare workers, treatment options for those suffering from substance use disorder and programs to support our children as they process what is going on around them – just to name a few. I call on my colleagues to fund these essential services that are more necessary now than ever,” Senator Manchin said.
“With more than 80,000 Americans having been stolen from their families far too early because of this virus, we must understand that the ripples of trauma extend far beyond the immediate lives lost, and will require serious mental health and counseling resources for those impacted. In addition, there is trauma that comes with losing your job and being unable to put food on the table. As our unemployment levels begin to reach that of the Great Depression, we also know that we are going to have an enormous amount of work to do to deal with that kind of grief and trauma as well. Given the severe underfunding that already existed for our mental health system, we’re going to have a lot of work ahead of us to try to put back together lives and families after this crisis is over, and that’s exactly why we need significant funding for mental health support in this next relief package,” said Senator Murphy.
“The coronavirus pandemic presents a huge behavioral health challenge for an already-strained mental health system. Providers have got to have more funds to purchase PPE, ramp up telehealth services, meet increased needs – and even simply keep their doors open,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This report lays out the challenges facing Nevada and communities across America. As Congress looks ahead to the work it needs to do to help America recover from the coronavirus pandemic, mental and behavioral health resources are going to be crucial in helping individuals, families, and communities get back on their feet, and we have to invest in them. At a time when half of Americans feel that the pandemic and its economic fallout are negatively affecting their mental health, we can’t afford to do otherwise.”
“During this pandemic, so many people are feeling lonely, worried and overwhelmed,” said Senator Smith. “This report highlights how critical it is for Congress to help Americans access a wide range of services during the pandemic to make sure people are connected to resources and support. I’ve been working to get resources in the next COVID-19 package to address social isolation and loneliness among seniors because being socially isolated should not mean being socially disconnected. And I’m working to establish reimbursement for telehealth services at the same rate as in-person services, including for mental and behavioral health as well as services for substance use disorders. We need to make sure mental health resources are available to everyone now and always. We can’t afford to leave holes in the net we build to catch people when they fall.”
The report outlines how Congress must invest in behavioral health services and not leave behind those with mental illness and addiction. A survey conducted in April of 880 behavioral health facilities by the National Council for Behavioral Health found nearly two out of three believe they can survive financially for only three months or less under current conditions.