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Gonzalez Introduces Legislation to Spur Research on the Neurological Impact of COVID-19

Today, U.S. Representatives Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16), Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), Susan Wild (PA-07), Scott Peters (CA-52), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Peter Meijer (MI-03) introduced the Brycen Gray and Ben Price COVID-19 Neurological Impact Act, legislation that would authorize the National Science Foundation, in consultation with the National Institutes of Health, to award grants on a competitive basis to support research on neurological and psychiatric illnesses associated with COVID-19 infection. This comes following the tragic loss of Northeast Ohio native Brycen Gray and Illinois native Ben Price earlier this year, both of whom had no history of mental illness but suffered from neurological illnesses caused by Covid-19

“The heartbreaking loss of Brycen Gray and Ben Price has shone an unforgiving light on how little we know about COVID-19’s direct impact on mental health.” Gonzalez said. “While we’ve made great strides to further understand COVID-19 and its complexities, significant research gaps remain as to how and why this virus can hit the brain and trigger serious mental illnesses. My bill effectively closes these gaps and lays the groundwork for preventing and treating these illnesses in the future. I am proud to lead this legislation alongside my colleagues and honor the legacies of Brycen and Ben.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant influence on all our lives, but some families across the country have also been victim to a less understood result of a COVID diagnosis,” Kinzinger said. “There have been cases of drastic neurological changes and psychiatric illness among individuals following a COVID-19 diagnosis that, in some instances, has led to suicide. After speaking to the Price family and hearing stories from other Members’ constituents, I knew something had to be done. I’m grateful to be a part of this bipartisan group and am hopeful that this legislation will be swiftly considered by Congress so we can get answers for these families and establish a strategy to prevent additional cases.” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated so many lives, but even those who recover from an infection are facing uncertain long-term health impacts — we’re talking about millions of Americans who still need our help,” Cárdenas said. “More and more research, including some being done at UCLA, is identifying how COVID-19 affects the brain, and increases the incidence of things like stroke and depression. Our bill will help fund this critical research to give us the tools needed to better treat patients facing neurological complications now and for years to come.”

“We owe it to the victims and survivors of COVID-19 to study the neurological and mental health impacts of the virus so we can treat it, prevent it, and better understand how it happens,” Wild said. “Empowering our nation’s scientists and doctors to fully research this ongoing crisis is commonsense, and I’m proud that this proposal has bipartisan support.”  

“Far too many Americans have reported frightening neurological and psychiatric complications related to their COVID-19 infection. With over 45.6 million COVID-19 cases and counting in the United States, we must invest in research on the various and lasting effects this illness has on the body and mind,” Peters said. “Our bipartisan bill will help find answers to some of the toughest questions regarding the disease’s long-term impacts. There is still much to learn about COVID-19, and I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in leading this effort.”

“With as many as one in three COVID-19 patients experiencing a neuropsychiatric illness following infection, there remains so much about this virus we don't know,” Meijer said. “Engaging NSF in the research of long-term neurological effects of COVID-19 will be critical in our efforts to understand this virus. I am glad to partner in this effort to prioritize Americans’ mental health as we work continue to navigate the pandemic.”

“As we work to restore our way of life and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the fact that many Americans are still suffering from the long-term, lingering effects of this virus,” Joyce said. “That’s why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Brycen Gray and Ben Price COVID-19 Neurological Impact Act. This bipartisan legislation will provide critical support to research centers that are working to better understand and address neurological and psychiatric illnesses associated with COVID-19. We must continue to fight for medical breakthroughs for the Americans struggling from the residual effects of COVID-19.”

“COVID-19 has been shown to have a negative impact on brain function for at least a third of those infected. Research into neurological and psychiatric conditions and the relationship to COVID-19 is a vital piece in understanding the long-term effects and resources needed to address the evolving public health emergency,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Senior Vice President for Public Policy, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Congress must continue to invest in innovative research to improve mental health care in the United States.” 

“We thank Rep. Anthony Gonzalez and fellow co-sponsors Rep’s., Kinzinger, Wild, Peters, Cárdenas, Joyce and Meijer for introducing the Brycen Gray and Ben Price COVID-19 Neurological Impact Act, which would support research on neurological and psychiatric conditions associated with COVID-19,” said Amy Wimpey Knight, president of Children’s Hospital Association. “This important piece of legislation will help us to better understand why neurological and psychiatric illnesses occur in patients following a COVID-19 infection and how such conditions impact both children and adults.”

Background

According to research published in The Lancet Psychiatry, 1 in 3 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 experience a neurological or psychiatric illness following their diagnosis and infection. Even more alarming, 1 in 8 patients are diagnosed with such an illness for the first time. While anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders are among the most common symptoms, researchers have also uncovered a prevalence of serious complications such as psychosis, dementia, and brain hemorrhages.

Earlier this year Gonzalez spoke on the House Floor to remember the life of Brycen Gray, a Northeast Ohio native that tragically took his own life after experiencing mental health side effects caused by Covid-19.

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