Durbin Discusses Mental Health, Opioid Overdose Epidemic Amid COIVD-19 & Need to Pass Biden's American Rescue Plan

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the drastic increase in opioid overdose deaths and suicides in 2020. Durbin highlighted that there were more suicides by Black residents of Cook County, Illinois, in 2020 than over the past ten years, with a total of 437 residents taking their lives. At the same time, more than 700 Cook County residents died from opioid overdoses between January and June 2020 alone—double the number of opioid deaths just one year earlier.  

“While the human suffering of COVID-19 has captured our attention, as it should, two other deadly epidemics in America still rage on: opioids and the mental health crises. Even before the virus took its toll, we had been in the midst of the worst drug overdose crisis in our nation's history, and we're witnessing skyrocketing rates of suicide, but COVID-19 has deepened these epidemics which sadly feed on isolation and despair. With the convergence of coronavirus emergencies, we are failing those most vulnerable to addiction and mental health challenges,” Durbin said.

In highlighting the need to act, Durbin shared the tragic story of a Lake County, Illinois, resident who struggled with her substance use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic and ended up taking her own life after being unable to access treatment. 

Durbin urged his colleagues not to forget about the dual crisis of opioids and mental health amid the pandemic and to support President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which provides resources to communities suffering from a rise in opioid overdose and suicide. The American Rescue Plan includes nearly $4 billion in addiction and mental health treatment grants to health providers, $7.6 billion to Community Health Centers to address behavioral health disparities in underserved communities, and a plan Durbin drafted with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to increase availability of health care – including behavioral health treatment – by providing scholarship and loan repayment awards to build the pipeline of health professionals who agree to serve in needy areas.  The legislation also expands health coverage through the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid.

“There's no vaccine against despair and addiction. But there are programs and treatments and strategies. We must give communities and health care providers the support they need now more than ever. The American Rescue Plan proposed by President Biden provides those resources,” Durbin said.  

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.