Last week, Representative John Curtis introduced the Helping Enable Access to Lifesaving Services (HEALS) Act, legislation that would fund federal grant programs to bolster the nation’s behavioral healthcare workforce. The legislation would specifically provide funding for institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations focusing on behavioral healthcare training in areas of high need.
“Over the past year, Americans have experienced unprecedent job loss, death of loved ones, social isolation, and the tragically high drug overdose rates,” said Rep. Curtis. “This pandemic has shown us how desperately we need more behavioral healthcare professionals to keep up with the growing demand for these lifesaving services. The HEALS Act will provide the resources to effectively train future behavioral healthcare providers to meet the needs of patients throughout the country. I am proud to be leading this legislation that is especially important to increasing access to care for rural Utahns, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation signed into law.”
“Utah’s Community Health Centers greatly appreciate Congressman John Curtis’s continued efforts to support, strengthen and diversify Utah and the nation’s behavioral health workforce through sponsorship of H.R. 5583, the Helping Enable Access to Lifesaving Services (HEALS) Act. Reauthorization of these crucial programs support safety net providers and their patients, and ensures that all Americans receive lifesaving and high-quality behavioral health care they depend on.” – Alan Pruhs, Executive Director, Association for Utah Community Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of Americans to seek treatment for anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, practitioners treating anxiety disorders reported seeing an uptick in demand for their services by 10 percent year-over-year between 2020 and 2021, while those treating depression saw a 12 percent increase in demand for services over the same time period.
Communities facing high rates of addiction have also seen tragic increases in overdoses during the pandemic. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed drug overdoses increased by thirty percent in 2020, killing a total of 93,331 people. Nationwide, methamphetamine overdoses spiked by thirty-four percent between May 2019 to May 2020 according to CDC data. In Utah, the US Drug Enforcement Agency seized more than three-hundred pounds of methamphetamine in 2020 alone, with overdoses associated with the drug accounting for forty percent of all drug overdoses during 2020.
The HEALS Act reauthorizes grant programming established by the landmark 21st Century Cures Act, overwhelmingly passed in Congress and signed into law in December 2016. The legislation would specifically reauthorize mental and behavioral health education and training grants programs at the Department of Human and Human Services. Resources would help eligible institutions to recruit, educate, and provide experiential learning opportunities for behavioral healthcare students.
Representative Curtis is a long-time supporter of legislation to help those struggling with mental health and those suffering with addiction. He recently co-led the Methamphetamine Response Act, which would declare methamphetamine as an emerging public health threat and require the federal government to develop an action plan to combat the illicit sales of methamphetamine across the United States.