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Opioid scourge continues even during COVID

Many members of Congress view COVID-19 relief legislation as an opportunity to grab money for any number of pet projects unrelated to the epidemic. But one proposed amendment, introduced by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, is entirely appropriate.

Capito and Collins want the new relief bill to include more money to fund substance abuse programs. Their proposal includes about $4.5 billion for the purpose.

Long before anyone ever heard of COVID-19, the ongoing drug abuse crisis was scourging Americans. During the past five years, the annual death rate from overdoses alone totaled more than 60,000 per year. If anything, the coronavirus epidemic is making the problem worse.

Local numbers of recent drug overdoses show that is the case.

While many people were stuck at home during Ohio’s quarantine, there seems to have been an uptick in accidental overdoses, April Caraway, executive director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said recently.

During earlier COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, urban centers in Ohio experienced increased overdoses due to an abundance of fentanyl on the streets, Caraway said. Fentanyl is added to street drugs such as heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine.

Let’s be clear that there is no vaccine against substance abuse.

Funding sought by Capito and Collins is but a drop in the bucket in the context of a new COVID-19 relief bill that, depending on the version enacted, may have a price tag as high as $3 trillion.

Most Americans may have their minds on avoiding COVID-19. But even now, finding their next fix is uppermost in the thoughts of too many people. The Capito-Collins plan should be adopted.

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