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Bipartisan Opioid Task Force holds virtual discussion on addressing COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic

The Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, led by U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Annie Kuster (NH-02), and Donald Norcross (NJ-01), yesterday hosted a virtual discussion on addressing the dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic. The Task Force Members heard from substance use disorder experts about the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that can lead to an increase in substance misuse as Americans struggle with the current public health crisis and economic downturn.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has turned many of our lives upside down, one of the groups that has largely been overlooked throughout this ordeal, has been those suffering from opioid addiction. Just because the COVID-19 pandemic started did not mean that the opioid public health crisis ended,” said Fitzpatrick. “In fact, social distancing measures and concerns over the virus are adversely affecting how many people can be treated for Substance Use Disorder. Not only have treatment facilities and capabilities been challenged during this time, but those suffering from SUDs have faced many other difficulties. We must continue to work to help those in need during this difficult time.”

The task force was joined by:
• Bradley Stein, director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) funded Opioid Policies, Tools, and Information Center (OPTIC) at Rand Corporation

• Regina LaBelle, program director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

• Michele Merritt, president and CEO of New Futures

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), communities across the United States will experience increases in depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief as a result of the pandemic. Because of this, there is an expected increase in substance misuse as lives are impacted by the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.

The Bipartisan Opioid Task Force announced its 2020 Legislative Agenda earlier this year. For information, visit

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