In Response to a Rise in Drug Overdoses in NH, Congressional Delegation Calls for Additional Funding for Substance Use Disorder Services in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

July 17, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), joined by U.S. Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01), called for additional funding for substance use disorder services in the next COVID-19 relief package as recent preliminary data suggests an increase in overdose deaths in New Hampshire. 

The Congressional Delegation’s letter follows a virtual roundtable discussion that Senator Hassan held recently with substance use disorder and behavioral health providers in New Hampshire, where they spoke about the gaps that still exist in access to treatment and recovery services amid the pandemic. Senator Shaheen addressed this troubling trend earlier this week at the Manchester Central Fire Station, where she heard more about the Manchester Fire Department’s Community Response Unit which supplements the Safe Stations Program.

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be worsening pre-existing issues with substance misuse,” the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation wrote in their letter to Congressional leadership. “Prior to the pandemic, drug overdose deaths were trending down in New Hampshire; now, preliminary data in our state over the past few months suggests that overdose deaths may be once again increasing. COVID-19 has increased substance misuse risk factors such as social isolation and stress, while simultaneously making it more difficult for people with substance use disorders to access the prevention and treatment resources that they need.

The Congressional Delegation continued, “Substance use disorder providers have had to dramatically adapt their services in response to unprecedented circumstances. In New Hampshire, these providers have worked tirelessly to deliver critical treatment and recovery services during these exceptional times. Providers have changed their delivery models, moving treatment and recovery support from in-person to largely online. But even as they innovate to meet the pandemic’s unique challenges, providers across New Hampshire have expressed urgent concerns that COVID-19 has seriously disrupted their stability and access to financial resources. Already, at least six recovery residences in New Hampshire have closed since the pandemic began.

New Hampshire received $2 million in federal funding as part of the bipartisan CARES Act to help the state support those living with mental health challenges and substance use disorders, but that funding has not been enough to sustain the services necessary to properly combat this crisis. Senators Shaheen and Hassan have called on Senate leadership to provide increased investments in mental and behavioral health, including for substance use disorder, in future COVID-19 response legislation. Following reports suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the opioid crisis, Senators Shaheen and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led 17 of their Senate colleagues, including Senator Hassan, in urging House and Senate leadership to increase the federal investment for state, local, and tribal governments and treatment providers who are leading the nation’s response to the ongoing opioid and substance use epidemic.

You can read the Congressional Delegation’s full letter here and below:

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy:

We write you to express the urgent need for Congress to provide additional funding for substance use disorder (SUD) prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts as part of any future legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the country fights COVID-19, it remains critical that people and providers have the resources they need to address the ongoing substance misuse crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be worsening pre-existing issues with substance misuse.  Prior to the pandemic, drug overdose deaths were trending down in New Hampshire; now, preliminary data in our state over the past few months suggests that overdose deaths may be once again increasing. COVID-19 has increased substance misuse risk factors such as social isolation and stress, while simultaneously making it more difficult for people with substance use disorders to access the prevention and treatment resources that they need.

Substance use disorder providers have had to dramatically adapt their services in response to unprecedented circumstances. In New Hampshire, these providers have worked tirelessly to deliver critical treatment and recovery services during these exceptional times. Providers have changed their delivery models, moving treatment and recovery support from in-person to largely online. But even as they innovate to meet the pandemic’s unique challenges, providers across New Hampshire have expressed urgent concerns that COVID-19 has seriously disrupted their stability and access to financial resources. Already, at least six recovery residences in New Hampshire have closed since the pandemic began.

As COVID-19 strains both people and providers, it has become more critical than ever that Congress provide substantial funding for substance use disorder efforts. Congress must continue to play a role in supporting communities devastated by COVID-19 and the substance misuse crisis. In March, Congress recognized the importance of funding substance use disorder services during COVID-19, providing $425 million for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, including $2 million for New Hampshire mental health and substance use disorder services, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The House of Representatives and Senate must build upon this bipartisan effort by substantially increasing funding for substance use disorder services in the next COVID-19 legislative package.

We look forward to continuing to work with you on these and other important priorities.