Gillibrand wants $25M for addiction support services, proposes first-of-its-kind federal grant program

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks in Watertown in summer 2020. (Provided photo — Sydney Schaefer, Watertown Daily Times)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is hoping to pass a bill in Congress that would help people with substance abuse disorder and addictions, and their families.

Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted many aspects of normal social life, rates of addiction and deaths from drug overdose have skyrocketed. Opioid overdose deaths have risen by 68% from 2019 to 2021, and alcohol-related deaths have risen by 25% between 2019 and 2020, according to the senator.

“Too often, those struggling with addiction can’t get the help they need,” she said. “Some don’t have insurance, or the insurance they do have doesn’t cover the necessary treatments. Others can’t afford the high cost of medications, and too many suffer from dual diagnoses, which most programs are not properly equipped to treat.”

Gillibrand this week reintroduced the Family Support Services for Addiction Act, which would provide $25 million in federal grant funding to be used to support local organizations that help people with addictions and their families. With bipartisan support in the House and Senate, the FSSA Act would establish a five-year grant program to support agencies and nonprofits that provide caregiver supports, education and training, counseling, support groups and skills building classes for people with addictions and their families.

“There is currently a lack of grant programs like the one my bill is (establishing),” Gillibrand said. “These programs often receive little to no government support, and my bill aims to address this gap in funding for these services.”

Gillibrand said it is of paramount importance that families be given the opportunity to assist with a loved one’s recovery, and funding for programs that can give them the skills and support they need to navigate the complicated and difficult world of addiction treatment is a key way to ensure families stay involved.

“Research has shown that outcomes can improve when family members are involved in a loved one’s treatment, but getting support can be difficult for family members too, as they can also face stigma, lack of insurance coverage, racial disparities and an inability to pay for support and services,” she said.

Her legislation would apply to programs that support people experiencing all manner of addictions, both inpatient and outpatient. She said there are nearly 350 such organizations in New York alone, and her legislation would allow for newly established programs to access funding as well throughout the five-year grant period.

“We need to make sure that we are providing these resources to families, so they can help their loved ones overcome their addictions,” she said. “COVID has taught us that responding to an epidemic requires a comprehensive approach to care, and this legislation will build one.”


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