Psychological Well being, Drug Invoice Pushed by Lawmakers’ Private Tales


For a lot of lawmakers, Wednesday’s vote on a package deal of dependancy and psychological well being laws shall be private.

For Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), it was his nephew who died overdosing on fentanyl. For Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), it was her brother who grew to become addicted after being prescribed oxycodone and OxyContin for a collection of surgical procedures. And for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), it was the shock of coming house to Levittown after 14 years within the FBI and realizing the magnitude of the issue.

The three Home members and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) got here collectively in March 2021 to create the Bipartisan Dependancy and Psychological Well being Job Power, which has been a key participant in selling and pushing laws on these points. Trone stated of the 145 lawmakers on the duty drive, “just about everybody has skilled the lack of a cherished one.”

“Perhaps household, possibly neighbors, possibly coworkers. Virtually each individual I speak to has a narrative,” Trone stated. “That’s what drives us, our frequent experiences.”

9 of the payments the group touted as a part of its legislative agenda are included both totally or partially within the bigger psychological well being and dependancy package deal (H.R. 7666) coming to the ground Wednesday. The measure would modify guidelines for psychological medical insurance protection and opioid remedy prescriptions whereas reauthorizing psychological well being and substance use dysfunction block grants and associated packages.

BGOV Invoice Abstract: H.R. 7666, Psychological Well being and Drug Use Grants

It’s been years within the making. Trone created the Freshman Working Group on Dependancy when he got here to Congress in 2019, which mixed with Kuster and Fitzpatrick’s Bipartisan Opioid Job Power final 12 months to type the present group. Lawmakers additionally added psychological well being to the duty drive’s title, an acknowledgment of how intertwined it’s with dependancy.

Photograph by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photographs

Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) is a member of a bipartisan activity drive on psychological well being and dependancy.

Job drive members not solely write laws, additionally they vet payments and ship ones that get their stamp of approval to colleagues to cosponsor. Kuster stated a mix of bipartisanship and help provides laws “liftoff” to make it to the ground.

That labored for the payments included within the bigger package deal from the Vitality and Commerce Committee. Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) attended a activity drive roundtable this month with Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Workplace of Nationwide Drug Management Coverage. On the time, he stated in an announcement that he seemed ahead “to persevering with to work with the duty drive and the White Home” to finalize the psychological well being laws.

The measure, cosponsored by the panel’s rating member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), was superior by voice vote in Could.

Majority Chief Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stated the duty drive demonstrated “how Democrats and Republicans can work collectively, drawing on their very own experiences, to learn thousands and thousands of Individuals.”

Each psychological well being and drug overdoses have grow to be main points within the US. In 2021, drug overdoses hit an all-time excessive, with greater than 107,000 individuals dying, in line with knowledge from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. A 3rd of Individuals reported signs of tension and melancholy in 2020, in line with a survey revealed within the Journal of the American Medical Affiliation in February 2021.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) known as latest years a “excellent storm” for a psychological well being disaster within the US.

Fitzpatrick stated there’s at all times been an “unaddressed psychological well being disaster on this nation” that’s just lately been exacerbated by 24-hour information, social media, and Covid-19.

“It’s nearly like the proper storm,” Fitzpatrick stated. “That’s leading to a psychological well being disaster on this nation and an dependancy disaster as a result of, oftentimes, people who have a substance use dysfunction are self-medicating for an underlying psychological well being problem.”

Job drive members are already centered on getting the invoice by means of the Senate, assembly with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chair of the Well being, Schooling, Labor, and Pensions Committee who has centered on psychological well being laws.

Kuster stated whereas the difficulty may be “a troublesome nut to crack,” lawmakers who’ve handled the difficulty have “type of a private bond.”

“That ties us collectively,” she stated, “and will get us over a number of the challenges that we’ve had.”

Alex Ruoff in Washington additionally contributed to this story.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at

To contact the editors chargeable for this story: Kyle Trygstad at; Loren Duggan at


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