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October 08, 2021

Trone talks mental health legislation

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Brandon Glass

CUMBERLAND, Md. — With Mental Health Awareness Week well underway, the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, which is comprised of over 150 members of Congress, is pushing forward with a number of bills focused on funding programs that combat addiction and improve mental health services.

“One we have is (the) Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act — called CARA 3.0 — which really takes into (account) all challenges on addiction and mental health from education to prevention to treatment, and provides funding to a 10-year program,” U.S. Rep. David Trone said Wednesday.

The bill is currently in the Energy and Commerce Committee, but since it already has support from Senate Republicans and Democrats, Trone hopes it will pass sometime in November.

As for the Build Back Better bill — initially written as a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, but the price tag changes by the day as Congress debates the guts of it — has around $2.5 billion that would go toward mental health-type grants as an investment in what Trone calls “people infrastructure.”

When it comes down to it, Trone said the fight remains to “break the stigma” on mental health with education and better understanding.

“We’ve got to start at the high school and before level. We’ve got to get more mental health counselors and education awareness, starting with middle school and up,” he said.

The Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force has also introduced the Comprehensive Mental Health in School Pilot Program act, which if passed would provide funding for projects in primary and secondary schooling aimed at mental health, behavioral health, prevention and intervention that ideally would mitigate such health issues.

With the amount of overlap between addiction and mental health, the increases in opioid deaths from 2020 over 2019 — a 30% increase nationally and a 111% increase in Allegany County — offers a sobering reality to the mental health situation in the country and the region, said Trone. Preliminary numbers the congressman has seen have shown no sign of an abatement in opioid deaths from 2020 to 2021.

“I think one of the most important things is we need to talk about it as stigma,” he said.