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Capito: Pandemic affecting addiction issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday to highlight how the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating our nation’s addiction fight.

“The past several months have been difficult for all of us,” Capito said. “However, for someone in recovery, this disruption may cause them to have having a hard time keeping their treatment regimens in place.

“The need for social distancing does make in-person recovery meetings that are a lifeline for some almost impossible. Social distancing may also lead to more individuals using drugs alone – raising the risk of overdose death because there is no one to help or intervene.”

“We discussed some of the responses the Trump Administration has taken to the pandemic and our new reality,” she said. “The Trump administration has relaxed some of the rules related to the prescribing of medication-assisted treatment. That’s been helping. The increased role for telehealth in behavioral and mental health care–that’s been helping.”

Capito talked about where drugs in West Virginia are coming from.

“I have been to our southern border – which is actually where most of the drugs are coming from that end up in my state,” she said. “I have worked with Customs and Border Protection, the TSA, the Secret Service, and the Coast Guard to ensure they remain focused on this incredibly important aspect of our national problem… Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security issued its FY2019 Seizures Report to Congress. This report confirms that a majority of drugs continue to come in from our southwest border, including cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines.”

The senator said both parties need to work together on the problem of addiction.

“I am working with bipartisan colleagues on creative ways to address these issues. Whether by ensuring that doctors can offer non-opioid choices as they resume elective surgeries through my NO PAIN Act with Senator Jones,” she said.

“Or by ensuring that those in treatment and recovery can use the technologies of today to connect virtually to peers and counselors through the Prescription Digital Therapeutics to Support Recovery Act that I have introduced with Senator Shaheen. Or by arming families with the information and resources they need to help their loved ones stay in recovery during these trying times through the Family Support Services for Addiction Act that I’ve worked with Sen. Gillibrand on.”

On Friday, Capito met with Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Jim Carroll in Huntington to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the drug epidemic.

Also on Friday, Capito held a phone meeting with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield. During the call, Capito and Redfield discussed ways they can continue to limit the spread of COVID-19 and progress towards a vaccine.

They also pledged to continue working together to reverse the rise in drug overdose deaths occurring during the last few months during the COVID pandemic.

“Unfortunately in West Virginia and across the nation, drug overdose deaths are rising amid the coronavirus pandemic, negating much of the progress seen over the past couple of years,” a Tuesday press release from Capito’s office stated.

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