President Donald Trump’s message to the nation’s top mental health experts is clear: he wants the American people to know that they are not alone, and that we are all in this fight against the coronavirus pandemic together.
Despite the massive investment of public health resources necessary to treat COVID-19 patients and slow the spread of the virus, the Trump administration is not neglecting the ongoing opioid epidemic that was ravaging American communities long before the novel coronavirus came along.
Every day in the United States, about 130 people die from opioid overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) observed a rapid increase in heroin and fentanyl overdoses over the last decade, but in recent years we’ve finally begun reversing that deadly trend. Fatal drug overdoses have decreased by at least 4 percent since 2017, the first nationwide decline in addiction-related mortality in about three decades.
The president lost his own brother to addiction, and that experience contributes significantly to his drive to protect Americans from opioids and other addictive substances. It’s part of the reason he battles for border security so fiercely, and it’s why he is so committed to stopping drug trafficking into our country.
So while the president works night and day to guide the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, he’s also taking steps to make sure that the toll the virus takes on Americans’ mental health won’t unravel the progress we’ve made toward ending the opioid epidemic over the past three years.
Calls to the national emotional distress hotline were up 891 percent this March compared to last year. Fear and uncertainty wreak havoc on a person’s mental health, leading to higher rates of opioid abuse, domestic violence, and suicide, as the president has warned in his briefings.
We need to get people back to work as soon as it is safe and feasible. There is no treatment or therapy as potent as a stable job. Until it’s safe for all Americans to return to work, though, we must resort to more conventional therapies.
The historic economic relief package known as the CARES Act includes $425 million in federal funding for addiction treatment, tele-mental health services, and other vital services to treat the uptick in depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, veteran issues, suicide, and addiction issues due to the crisis.
As effective as those resources are, the single most important thing President Trump can do to support mental health is to reopen the economy as soon as the public health situation allows.
The president knows this. It is why he is fighting so hard to stop the pandemic and open the economy as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to battle the invisible enemy together as one united nation, led by the same president who created the best economy in history and the best environment for mental health in our lifetimes.
Dr. Gina Loudon, Ph.D. (@RealDrGina) is a bestselling author, columnist, and frequent news commentator. She is the national co-chairwoman of Women for Trump and is on the Donald J. Trump for President Media Advisory Board.