There was desperate need to address mental illness and addiction before the pandemic, and the need has only grown more urgent. We were unprepared for not only the disease of COVID itself, but for other public health consequences that arose in its wake.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the mental health and addiction crises facing the U.S. The loss of loved ones, isolation, stress, and economic uncertainty are driving increases in anxiety, depression, substance use, and other adverse mental health outcomes. The number of drug overdose deaths during the pandemic has skyrocketed to record levels. It is likely we will continue to see negative mental health and substance use outcomes from the pandemic even after the threat of COVID-19 recedes.
The Preventing Mental Health and Substance Use Crises During Emergencies Act would ensure the federal government is better prepared to address the mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) impacts of the next public health emergency. It would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to convene a task force to assess the federal government’s response to the MH/SUD crises during and after COVID-19, create a national strategy to prevent future MH/SUD crises during public health emergencies, and periodically convene the task force to update the strategy.