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SAMHSA Statement Regarding CDC's MMWR on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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The findings of CDC's MMWR on mental health issues and substance use during the pandemic are troubling but unfortunately not surprising. The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, has warned of the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues since the start of the pandemic. SAMHSA has made increased investments in treatment provision through the CARES Act funding. While this will assist, this alone will not solve the problem. The MMWR clearly evidences the issues caused by social isolation and lockdowns but fails to promote a key strategy to address these issues. The Assistant Secretary again urges local and state officials to consider all aspects of health and not solely virus containment as we move forward. Research is clear on the effect of shutdown and social isolation on an individual's mental health. The negative health effects are potentially long-lasting and very consequential for individuals and their families. The best fight we have against these issues is the safe reopening and return to some type of normalcy for Americans. With appropriate safety measures in place, the reopening of states and communities will facilitate the improvement in mental health across our nation. We cannot continue to ignore the health consequences for all other conditions in favor of singularly focusing on virus containment.

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to lead public health and service delivery efforts that promote mental health, prevent substance misuse, and provide treatments and supports to foster recovery while ensuring equitable access and better outcomes.

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