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Gillibrand wants $10B for mental health, substance abuse services in COVID relief bill | Politics

Election 2020 Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Robert Harding

After a spike in drug overdose deaths and suicides during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is requesting billions in funding for a federal agency that aims to prevent and treat mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. 

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee urging them to include $10 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the next COVID-19 relief bill. 

President Joe Biden and congressional leaders are working on a new $1.9 trillion relief package. Biden has released his proposal, but Congress could add funding for mental health and substance abuse services in the final legislation. 

Half the funding would support the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program, while the other $5 billion would boost the Substance Abuse Prevent and Treatment Block Grant program. Both programs provide direct aid to states for mental health services and substance abuse treatment. 

“The pandemic has exacerbated New York’s addiction crisis and we must do more to address the troubling trend of high rates of mental health and substance use disorders,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “Many mental health care and substance use disorder support services are faced with the heavy burden of helping Americans in need with limited resources. Shoring up SAMHSA with robust funding in the next package would ensure resources are available to those recovering from substance use and help save lives.”

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