Brown Discusses Addiction & Mental Health Challenges, Increased Demand on Area Resources

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OH – June 28, 2022 – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a roundtable at Ohio University Eastern, with local leaders, counselors and patients, to discuss the impact of mental health and addiction issues on the community.

“We know what a toll the pandemic has taken on people’s mental health – it’s hard enough for all of us to deal with increased social isolation, the strain on people’s jobs and school and their family budgets. We also know it’s made the addiction crisis worse,” said Brown. “I want to see reforms and investments to support mental health workers and expand options for people – from acute inpatient services, to counseling and support in our schools and community health centers.” 

The added social and economic stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to poor and worsening mental health for both children and adults. In 2020, more than 5,000 Ohioans died from unintentional drug overdoses, and May of that year recorded the highest number of unintentional drug overdose deaths ever in a single month in Ohio.

“It was truly a pleasure meeting with Senator Brown at our mental health roundtable discussion. Mental health and addiction are issues that touch many families in our region of Appalachia, issues that those who work with people suffering from mental illness and addiction are passionate about,” said Shannon Watson, Executive Director of the Crossroads Counseling Services. “I am thankful to Senator Brown for not only listening but working diligently with us to find solutions to the issues and challenges we are facing in our area.”  

Overdose deaths in Belmont County have increased on a near annual basis over the past decade, with overdose deaths increasing by nearly 65 percent between 2019 and 2020. In the decade leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio’s suicide rates were also on the rise, with several counties in Appalachian Ohio recording some of the highest rates in the state.

“I am so excited to have the chance to talk to Senator Brown about my experiences with Crossroads. My mental health and addiction issues had me pretty down, but after all the encouragement and help from Crossroads, I feel I can truly say they are in my past,” said Ryan Whitlatch, a client of Crossroads. “For the first time, I am looking forward to my future and what it may hold!”

Brown is a member of the Senate Finance Committee which has held hearings focused on mental health and is now focused on bipartisan legislation to address the gaps and challenges in mental health services.