Washington, D.C. -- Today, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), David Trone (D-MD), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) announced the creation of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, an effort to promote policies to combat the addiction and mental health crises in America.
The new group merges the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, co-chaired by Reps. Fitzpatrick and Kuster in the 116th Congress, with Trone’s Freshman Working Group on Addiction.
Last Congress, the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force unveiled its 2020 Legislative Agenda, which outlined more than two dozen commonsense, bipartisan bills to address the opioid epidemic. Also during the 116th Congress, the Freshmen Working Group on Addiction collectively introduced more than 50 bills related to the addiction and mental health crisis. The purpose of this new Task Force is to combine efforts to make the most progress possible on addiction and mental health in the 117th Congress. Its forthcoming 2021 Legislative Agenda will address these dual public health crises that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force will host regular meetings with stakeholders, attend site visits, and create policies that will save lives. The Task Force’s first roundtable conversation will focus on the effects that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had on the state of addiction and mental health in America.
"The mental health and opioid epidemics sweeping across Pennsylvania and our nation have only been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has created new barriers for our citizens with pre-existing mental illnesses and substance use disorders and generated new issues for our citizens previously unaffected,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Our bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force team is ready to educate, raise awareness, and take immediate action to provide support and hope to the millions of struggling people across our country. "
“Since I launched the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force in 2015, our efforts to respond to the opioid epidemic have evolved as we work to address this constantly changing nationwide crisis," said Rep. Kuster. "Addiction and mental health are intrinsically linked, and our new Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force will allow us to meet the moment and focus on holistic solutions for addiction and co-occurring illnesses. The health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has created new barriers for Americans seeking treatment for mental health disorders and addiction, and the worry and additional stress it has caused is creating new mental health challenges for countless people across the nation. I look forward to working with our co-chairs to identify bipartisan solutions to bolster prevention efforts and expand access to addiction and mental health treatment."
“While we have a vaccine for COVID, we will never have a vaccine for addiction and mental health,” said Rep. Trone. “Recent data shows us that we have no time to waste in the fight against these crises. The Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force is ready to get to work to end the addiction and mental health epidemics and save lives. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues Representatives Kuster, Fitzpatrick, and Herrera Beutler -- not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans -- to help the millions of folks living with mental health and substance use disorders across the country.”
“Southwest Washington communities were already struggling with mental health and substance use issues prior to COVID – and the strain of the pandemic has increased those struggles exponentially,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler. “I’m helping lead the bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force because I want to help people in Southwest Washington, and across the country, break addiction and empower them to beat mental health challenges.”