Bipartisan lawmakers highlight COVID-19 impact on mental health, addiction

Bipartisan lawmakers on Tuesday called for legislative action to help tackle addiction and mental health needs coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at The Hill's "Mental Health, Addiction and the COVID-19 Pandemic" event, Rep. Jahana HayesJahana HayesKatie Hill launches effort to protect Democratic majority in House Bipartisan lawmakers highlight COVID-19 impact on mental health, addiction Overnight Health Care: White House acknowledges it will fall short of July 4 vaccine goal | Fauci warns of 'localized surges' in areas with low vaccination rates | Senate Finance leader releases principles for lowering prescription drug prices MORE (D-Conn.) said it’s important to focus on the medical aspects when drafting legislation.

“Those are medical issues that we have to address just as we would any other health condition,” Hayes, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus's Youth Suicide and Mental Health Task Force, told The Hill's Steve Clemons.

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Mental health cases have grown in recent months: 41.5 percent of U.S. adults had anxiety or depressive disorder in February, compared with 36.4 percent in August, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of adults who said they needed but did not receive care for mental health issues also increased during the period, from 9.2 percent to 11.7 percent.

Rep. David JoyceDavid JoyceBipartisan lawmakers highlight COVID-19 impact on mental health, addiction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Porter urges increased budget for children's National Parks program MORE (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, said increased internet access can help address some of those needs.

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“One thing that I would not have been necessarily a sponsor of prior to the pandemic is that broadband would be considered a part of infrastructure. I certainly believe that now,” he said at Tuesday's event. “Just having the ability for people to reach out and contact -- telehealth and telemedicine -- is something that can only be established by us putting money to broadband.”

Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoWHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes McCarthy-allied fundraising group helps Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chair of the Mental Health Caucus, said addiction in some cases has a direct tie in to mental health issues that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

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“If you also look at the fact that heroin addiction and heroin overdose death are on the rise during the pandemic, that's not a coincidence because a lot of the people that are using heroin are self medicating to mask mental health issues,” Katko said at the event sponsored by The Hartford.