While the nation continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, addiction and mental health disorders should be in the spotlight. The public health crisis has affected the lives of every American and has taken a severe toll on those who struggle with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness.
People in recovery no longer have access to many of the resources they relied on previously. Alcohol sales have skyrocketed across the country, individuals living with mental illness are struggling in isolation, and illicit drug use is likely on the rise.
The need for effective, evidence-based addiction and mental health treatment services is crucial. Both those in recovery and men and women who require treatment desperately need the support of local, state, and the federal government.
With nearly 40 million Americans out of work, many will have and will turn to drugs and alcohol to combat despair and desperation. While there has been what some would describe as a minuscule effort to keep everybody’s head above water financially, it’s fair to say it is not enough. Millions of Americans’ bills are piling up, and there is evidence that there will be a wave of evictions in the coming months. Some 1 in 3 Americans rent their apartment or home.
These are dire times, and there haven’t been any reports of light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. More than 2.5 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and over 120 thousand have died in the United States. With each passing week, those numbers grow exponentially.
Addiction Treatment Centers and Federal COVID-19 Health Funding
Financial woes often lead or contribute to the use of drugs and alcohol to cope. What’s more, debt can play a factor in a person in recovery choosing to relapse. Right now, the recovery community has limited resources to support one another. What’s more, addiction and mental health treatment centers are finding it difficult to support the men and women who are suffering.
Like every business and organization, the global pandemic has touched every sector—including the addiction treatment industry. USA Today reports that community behavioral health organizations have had to turn away patients because of a lack of funding.
From $1,200 coronavirus stimulus checks for every American to the Paycheck Protect Program (PPP) (an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis), the federal government has made attempts to keep everyone afloat. Nevertheless, millions of Americans are struggling in more ways than one.
There is also the Health Care Provider Fund, which mainly supports hospitals treating coronavirus patients, and is meant to offset some of the lost revenue from canceled elective surgeries, according to the article. However, the Health Care Provider Fund lacks provisions to support behavioral health centers treating addiction and mental health disorders.
In an effort to address the issue, 27 mental health and addiction treatment organizations sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. They declared that without designated funding from the Health Care Provider Fund, many essential community services would go under. Those most vulnerable would be left out in the cold. The authors write:
“Alarmingly, 62.1% of behavioral health centers project that they will only survive financially for three months or less under the current COVID-19 conditions, with six in 10 clinics stating that they have closed clinics or initiated mass staff layoffs.”
Mental Health & Substance Use Providers Confronting Financial Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in dire predictions from experts. Soaring suicide, drug, and alcohol deaths will come to pass if the government does not take action immediately. Nearly half (46%) of the behavioral health organizations remaining think they can only survive six months or less as things stand now, according to the letter. Nearly a quarter of the organizations (22%) have not received any relief funding.
The authors of the letter, which include the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, Mental Health America, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to name a few, write that without financial assistance:
“COVID-19 will trigger an enormous wave of behavioral health challenges, including an increased prevalence of clinical depression, a spike in drug overdoses and the possibility of even higher suicide rates.”