Katko unveils bipartisan bill to establish substance abuse grants during pandemic

U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) on April 24 introduced a bipartisan bill that would authorize grants to address increased substance abuse and overdoses during the COVID–19 pandemic.

Rep. Katko is the lead original cosponsor of H.R. 6620 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH) to create emergency grants for counties and community-based organizations that serve individuals with substance use disorders.

“With a recent spike in overdose deaths in central New York, it is clear we need to act swiftly to provide assistance to those struggling with addiction during this pandemic,” Rep. Katko said on April 28. “For this reason, I am proud to join Representative Kuster in introducing bipartisan legislation that will create emergency grants for counties and community-based organizations that serve individuals with substance use disorders.”

With measures in place that require Americans to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, isolation has contributed to elevated rates of substance use and a recent spike in overdose deaths, subsequently increasing the need for substance use treatment services, local community organizations and nonprofits to hire additional staff and develop creative methods to help treat patients, according to the lawmaker’s office.

“In central New York, our region has long suffered from the impact of the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Katko. “Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has added additional challenges, as local substance use disorder treatment providers and nonprofits grapple with an increase in number of individuals misusing substances, as well as implementing safety precautions that make treatment and outreach more difficult during this pandemic.”

By providing emergency support, Rep. Katko said that the bill would ensure counties and local organizations are able “to continue conducting outreach and providing assistance to those struggling with substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

If enacted, H.R. 6620 would authorize the grant awards to states, territories, counties, tribes, tribal organizations, and community-based entities to address the harms of drug misuse, such as by addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C; connecting individuals with a substance use disorder to overdose education, counseling and health education; or encouraging such individuals to take steps to reduce the negative personal and public health impacts of substance use during any emergency period, according to the text of the bill.

H.R. 6620 has garnered support from Crouse Health’s Chemical Dependency Services in Syracuse, N.Y., and the Wayne County (N.Y.) Department of Mental Health and Wayne Behavioral Health Network.