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Blaine's Bulletin: National Recovery Month

Washington, September 18, 2020

Substance abuse and mental health issues affect millions of American families nationwide, and unfortunately, Missouri is no exception. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2018 data, 128 Americans pass away each day from an opioid overdose, and we lose another 123 Americans to suicide each day. As shocking as these statistics are, the numbers are projected to be even worse due to the coronavirus pandemic. September is National Recovery Month and a great opportunity to increase awareness and remove the stigmas of substance abuse and mental health. 

Over the last six months, the blanket shutdowns that have occurred nationwide have wreaked havoc on our economy, job market, and education system among many other things. While it was, of course, necessary to focus a significant portion of our attention on the virus and pandemic, it unfortunately caused many other health resources to fall by the wayside resulting in a number of other unintended consequences. Some of the most tragic unintended consequences we have seen come out of this pandemic are the major upticks we have seen in substance abuse and mental health problems. Unemployment has played a huge role in this problem and has caused many Americans who have been unable to work and faced massive financial burdens to suffer from substance abuse, depression and other mental health problems. Workers who have lost their jobs have wondered how they will pay their bills or feed their families, parents who have been able to continue to work have struggled to find the balance between homeschooling and working, and people who were already facing substance abuse or mental health issues have been unable to get the proper care. This has also been an especially difficult time for our state’s veterans, many of whom rely on mental health resources and health care from the VA hospital which was forced to severely limit services. While temporary shutdowns were necessary for some areas of the country to slow the spread, coronavirus numbers are improving nationwide and our labor market continues to bounce back. It is imperative that America gets back to business as usual for a number of reasons, but one of the most important is to allow anyone suffering from substance abuse or mental health problems to resume normal life and get the help they need. 

One in five Americans lives with a mental health disorder or struggles with substance abuse. We lost almost 2,000 Missourians in 2019 to overdoses, and I am determined to do everything I can as your Representative to help this number go down. I am a proud co-sponsor of the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act, which renews and expands funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). Missouri is one of eight states participating in the program and has seen great success with the clinics. The CCBHCs provide outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and coordination of care and partnerships with emergency rooms, law enforcement, and veterans groups. The clinics provide 24/7 care 365 days a year and have been a major lifeline in helping Missourians who struggle with mental health and substance abuse problems. My fellow Missourian Senator Roy Blunt has championed this bill in the Senate, and I am hopeful together we can get it passed and signed into law soon after such a difficult year. 

For any Missourians who are struggling with mental health and would like to talk to professionals, please visit the Missouri Department of Mental Health’s website (dmh.mo.gov/mental-illness). And the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK. For any veterans who are seeking support, the Veterans Crisis Line can be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing “1.” This helpline is toll-free, confidential, and answered 24/7 by qualified responders, many of whom are veterans themselves. Supporting mental health and substance abuse recovery services is always a priority for me in Congress, but now more than ever after the difficult year our country has faced with coronavirus and its effects.