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Rise in Drug and Substance Use on College Campuses Prompts Tester, Capito, Hassan to Introduce Bipartisan Legislation

Senators’ bill would provide funding to higher education institutions, particularly in rural areas, to help curb rising drug abuse

(U.S. Senate) – To combat rising rates of the misuse of drugs and other substances on college campuses, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced bipartisan legislation to help fund substance misuse prevention and treatment initiatives at colleges and universities.


Tester, along with Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), introduced the Healthier Students for Stronger Campuses Act to help colleges and universities, particularly those in rural areas, create initiatives to educate students on the dangers associated with drug use, provide recovery and treatment services, and capitalize on existing community resources.


“Opioid and meth use in Montana is going up across the board, and our college campuses are no exception,” Tester said. “No parent should have to worry that their child will abuse dangerous drugs when they go off to college, so we’ve got to ensure our future leaders of tomorrow understand the dangers of these drugs, and can seek help with recovery from an institution that’s well equipped to support them.”


“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. “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. I’m thrilled to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation, another step in a much larger fight.”


“The fentanyl, heroin, and opioid epidemic impacts Granite Staters from all walks of life and in all corners of our state, including on our college campuses,” Hassan said. “For students to prepare for their futures, they need the opportunity to learn in a safe and healthy environment, and that includes having supports and resources in place to address substance misuse. This bill will help ensure that higher education institutions are equipped to support students struggling with addiction and help them get their lives back on track.”


According to survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 24 percent of all full-time college students misused illicit drugs over a one-month period and over nine percent of students report using pain medications for non-medical 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 non-federal funds.


The American College Health Association (ACHA), which represents college health professionals across the nation, praised the Senators’ bill:


“Because of the unique position ACHA plays in promoting health and wellness for college students, the Healthier Students for Stronger Campuses Act is of particular interest to ACHA and its members,” said Dr. Devin Jopp, Chief Executive Officer of the ACHA. “We are pleased that Senator Tester will be introducing this in the 116th Congress and that he will be joined initially in this by Senators Hassan (D-NH) and Capito (R-WV).”


The Healthier Students for Stronger Campuses Act is also supported by the Montana University System, Results for America, and Trust for America’s Health.