U.S. Senators Tina Smith, DFL-Minn., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced two bills Thursday to direct $200 million in federal funding toward mental health and addiction treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression has more than tripled from 11% in 2019 to 37.7% in October 2020, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The number of overdose deaths has also accelerated since the start of the pandemic, according to preliminary data by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“During this deeply challenging time, we must ensure people get the health care they need,” Smith said in a statement.

The Stopping the Mental Health Pandemic Act would provide states and tribes with $150 million to support community-based behavioral health services such as suicide prevention, crisis intervention and outreach to underserved communities.

The Emergency Support for Substance Use Disorders Act would give states and tribes $50 million to support recovery programs and fund harm reduction services like overdose prevention.

The bills would prioritize culturally specific programs that serve populations which have been hardest hit by COVID-19 such as Black, Native and Latino communities.

“It is clear we must continue to bolster the nation’s mental health system to address existing behavioral health and substance abuse concerns that have only been exacerbated by COVID,” Murkowski said in a statement.

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Minnesota Reformer and reports on labor and housing.

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