House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Health Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY) asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to examine the causes of the staggering increase in overdose deaths. The Energy and Commerce Republicans specifically cite the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced people to be isolated and the increasingly lethal drug supply as some of the factors that have led to the surge in overdose deaths. 

KEY EXCERPTS: “The COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s response to the pandemic are undoubtably a large factor as to why the number of overdose deaths have increased so dramatically.  

“First, the pandemic contributed to the increase in drug overdose deaths because people were isolated, causing increases in anxiety and depression which exacerbated the risk of drug use for those who were already struggling with a substance use disorder and the risk of relapse for those in recovery. Isolation and loss of peer support also contributed to increases in those using drugs alone and overdosing without anyone nearby to intervene or call for help. Second, disruptions to our daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in things like reduced access to and the postponement of treatment, peer and recovery supports, and harm reduction services. Lastly, some reports have suggested that another reason overdose deaths have increased is because the drug supply has become increasingly more lethal.” 

[…] 

“Accordingly, we are examining the causes of the staggering increase in overdose deaths so we can better prevent future overdoses and save lives.  In addition, we are seeking information from the administration regarding the status of the large amounts of funding that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has received over the past five years for substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery.” 

The Energy and Commerce Republicans ask Secretary Becerra:  

  • Please describe all of the factors that the administration believes have contributed to the recent, staggering increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S. 
  • Has HHS taken steps to evaluate the impact that COVID-19 mitigation efforts, such as lockdowns and school closures, have had on the increase in drug overdose deaths in the U.S.?  If so, please describe this impact and whether this information will help inform more balanced policy decisions regarding COVID-19 mitigation efforts moving forward. 
  • What is HHS doing to address the concerns over reduced access to treatment and harm reduction services that have been reported during the COVID-19 pandemic?

CLICK HERE to read the entire letter and list of questions to HHS. 

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