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Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo,) speaking in Washington, March 2020. Photo: Dwight Widaman, Copyright: metrovoicenews.com

Sen. Josh Hawley wants government to tackle mental health aspects of lockdowns

The ongoing pandemic and accompanying lockdowns is taking a toll on the health of many Americans, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said.

“This time has been extraordinarily hard on people from all walks of life, but especially those who struggle with substance abuse, some who’ve begun to struggle during this time with substance abuse,” the popular Senator said.

He is urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address theses growing needs. He wrote a letter asking the agency to deploy more of the $425 million that Congress appropriated to the agency to boost mental health and substance-abuse treatment services during the pandemic.

READ: Pandemic closures take toll on children

“I’d like to see more money come to our state and local health-care providers,” Hawley said. “I’d like to see HHS set up a system to get that money out the door.”

Hawley, who serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the agency has distributed $14 million in CARES Act funding to Missouri-certified community behavioral health clinics. He also said the agency has established an emergency grant program, targeted at suicide prevention. However, he said more should be done to increase access to services.

Increases in social isolation and anxiety because of the COVID pandemic may be contributing to surges in drug addiction, and the senator said he’s seeing reports from across Missouri about significant increases in Narcan doses deployed by EMS personnel to combat drug overdoses. He also said treatment facilities for drug addiction are under severe strain because of pandemic-related interruptions.

A University of Missouri professor who serves as the director of the Missouri Center for Addiction Research and Engagement said increased isolation and more daily life stressors are some of the challenges people are facing during the pandemic. Professor Denis McCarthy said some residents have also experienced job losses and business closures during the pandemic.

Since May, health experts have been warning that prolonged focus on the pandemic and lockdowns has caused a spike in suicide, drug abuse and abusive behaviors toward children.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice