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Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

U.S. Sens. Cassidy, Duckworth and Brown introduce bill authorizing research into COVID-affiliated mental illnesses

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U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bill this week to fund research on the COVID-19 impacts on mental health and brain function.

“The pandemic showed us the need to prioritize mental health and support those suffering,” Cassidy said.

Specifically, the Brycen Gray and Ben Price COVID-19 Cognitive Research Act would authorize National Science Foundation funding for research into mental illnesses linked to both short- and long-term COVID-19 cases among adults, children, and adolescents. Ben Price and Brycen Gray committed suicide during their struggles with the illness. Reports have said that neither had a history of mental illness before being infected by COVID-19.

“There is so much more we must do to better understand COVID-19 and its impacts on people’s lives at a fundamental level,” Duckworth said. “I’m proud to introduce the Brycen Gray and Ben Price COVID-19 Cognitive Research Act with Senators Cassidy and Brown to help expand research into this issue, honor those we’ve lost and work to prevent future tragedies.”

Brown described the legislation as a first step toward understanding, treating, and preventing longer-term side effects of the pandemic. He said COVID-19’s impacts on mental health have been stark, but understanding is still out of reach for the neurological disorders it has – or may have – spurred. The pandemic caused increased isolation, fear, and disruptions of routines for many, even without the deaths that have impacted many.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 986,000 people have died of the disease in the United States since 2020. While many lockdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing requirements have since lifted as case counts dropped, more than 20,000 additional Americans have died from COVID-19 and its variants in the past month.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) backed the new mental health-focused bill in the House with the introduction of companion legislation there.