Legislation aims to fund substance misuse prevention, treatment at colleges

Three U.S. senators have introduced legislation that would provide funding to higher education institutions to help curb rising drug abuse.

The Healthier Students for Stronger Campuses Act — introduced by U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. — would help fund substance misuse prevention and treatment initiatives at colleges and universities, particularly those in rural areas.

“My state has been especially hard-hit by our nation’s opioid epidemic, a crisis that has affected individuals from all walks of life,” Capito said in a release. “To help ensure younger West Virginians feel supported in dealing with the causes and consequences, this bill will offer colleges and universities across the nation an opportunity to look at innovative ideas to prevent opioid use and to help those struggling with addiction find treatment and recovery services."

Survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows more than 24 percent of all full-time college students misused illicit drugs over a one-month period, the release said, and more than 9 percent of students report using pain medications for nonmedical reasons.

Around 1.5 percent of college students were diagnosed or treated for substance use disorder or addiction over the last 12 months.

The Healthier Students for Stronger Campuses Act would create a five-year grant of $100 million, authorized annually and administered by the Department of Education and SAMHSA. Institutions of higher education can use these grants for education and prevention efforts, recovery services, sober living dorms, treatment or referrals to treatment, and mental health counseling for substance use disorder.

The bill also reserves 25 percent of funding for rural institutions and includes a 20 percent matching requirement of nonfederal funds.

By:  Wendy Holdren
Source: Beckley Register-Herald