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Capitol Connector

Capitol Connector
Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Growing Number of Senate Republicans Oppose ACA “Repeal and Delay” Strategy

January 12, 2017 | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

A growing number of Senate Republicans have voiced opposition to the “repeal and delay” strategy for changing the Affordable Care Act. A group of five Senators wants to give Congress more time to formulate an ACA replacement plan, as outlined in an amendment introduced on Monday. The amendment reflects continuing disagreement within the Congressional majority on a path forward, creating an opening for more advocates to weigh in with their views.

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CMS Issues Guidance on Community First Choice for HCBS Services in Medicaid

January 12, 2017 | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a letter to State Medicaid Directors providing guidance on the implementation of the Community First Choice (CFC) State Plan Option, a home and community-based benefit package available to states to promote community stability and integration.

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Block Grants, Per Capita Caps Would Slash Medicaid

January 5, 2017 | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The 115th Congress is considering a potentially dramatic refinancing of Medicaid. Current proposals to block grant or institute per capita caps on Medicaid could ultimately shift costs onto states and enrollees, restrict access to care and increase the number of uninsured and underinsured. Despite promises of greater flexibility for states under a new system, the ultimate goal of these proposals is to massively cut federal spending for Medicaid, potentially leaving millions without needed care.

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SAMHSA Announces States Selected for CCBHC Demonstration

Rebecca Farley

Vice President, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration this week announced the selection of eight states to participate in the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration under the Excellence in Mental Health Act. Beginning in 2017, certified clinics in the eight states will receive an enhanced Medicaid payment rate based on their anticipated costs of providing an expanded array of addiction and mental health services, along with basic primary care screening and coordination with primary care.

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NIDA Survey Shows Youth Drug Use Down, Except for Marijuana

December 22, 2016 | Addictions | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

According to the annual Monitoring the Future (MFT) survey, teen drug and alcohol use is at its lowest rates since the 1990s. Despite most teen drug use declining, researchers warn that marijuana use among 12th graders remains high. Every year the study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), surveys about 45,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades in 380 public and private secondary schools. Find the full press release and survey data here.

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SAMHSA Releases Opioid Crisis Grant Applications

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Congress’ investment of $500 million for opioid addiction services is now available for states to access through a grant application with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). State agencies will have until February 17 to submit an application to SAMHSA detailing how they will use the funds to support current state efforts to combat opioid abuse. While providers cannot apply for the funds directly, they should engage with their state officials to discuss addiction services that could be strengthened in their community.

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Detailing the GOP Plans to Repeal, Replace ACA

December 16, 2016 | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

While Donald Trump will not be sworn in as President until January 20th, work in the 115th Congress will begin on January 3rd. Congressional leaders are expected to move quickly to repeal key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, giving President Trump the opportunity to sign legislation on his first day in office. The National Council needs its members to be active in the coming weeks and months, discussing with legislators what repeal of provisions like Medicaid expansion would mean for their state and the communities they serve.

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Climbing Opioid Overdose Deaths Show Urgent Need for Treatment

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

According to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids increased to 33,091 in 2015. The report details the cause of overdose deaths, providing insight as to the prevalent issue areas in the nation’s addiction epidemic. For instance, the increase in 2015 was largely driven by overdose deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Read more for a summary of the report.

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Congress Sends 21st Century Cures to White House

December 8, 2016 | Addictions | Justice | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Wednesday, the Senate passed 21st Century Cures (H.R. 34), a bill designed to spur medical innovation and research. The bill also establishes $1 billion in grants to states to help combat the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic. Cures now heads to White House, where it is expected to be signed by President Obama early next week.

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Greg Walden to Lead Key Health Committee

December 8, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, House Republican leaders elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) of Oregon’s 2nd District to run the influential House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) will continue to serve as Ranking Member. The House E&C Committee is the key health committee in the House of Representatives and should take center stage in efforts to repeal and replace tenets of the Affordable Care Act.

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Congress Reaches Deal on Opioid Funding, Mental Health

Stephanie Pellitt

Associate, Policy and Advocacy

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the 21st Century Cures Act – a medical research and innovation bill that includes important funding for addictions. The bill authorizes $1 billion over the next two years to address the opioid crisis, and would create and reauthorize a number of federal mental health grant programs. The Senate is set to consider the bill early next week.

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Trump Announces Picks to Lead HHS, CMS

December 1, 2016 | Medicaid | Medicare | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Earlier this week, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Indiana-based health care consultant, Seema Verma, as the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Congressman Price has been a longtime opponent of the Affordable Care Act and is likely to be a key player in any “repeal and replace” efforts from the 115th Congress.

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White House Event Highlights Policy Success on Substance Use Disorder

December 1, 2016 | Addictions | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, the White House held the final event in its Making Health Care Better Series – a series dedicated to highlighting progress and successes made during the Obama Administration. This morning’s event – which focused on strides made in substance use disorder treatment – featured three panels, reflecting on successes the field has made as well as challenges and opportunities for success moving forward.

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Court Ruling Blocks Overtime Pay Rule, Halts Enforcement Nationwide

December 1, 2016 | Workforce | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Vice President, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction blocking the implementation of the Department of Labor’s new overtime regulation, set to take effect December 1. The regulation raises the exemption threshold for employee overtime pay from its current level of $23,660 to approximately $47,476.

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Congress Considers Lame Duck Action on Mental Health

November 23, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Rumors inside the Beltway suggest that Congress could vote on a mental health and health research and innovation package after Thanksgiving. While details have yet to emerge, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) – Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and author of the 21st Century Cures Act – told House Republicans at a meeting last week that negotiations on the legislative package are nearing completion.

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Surgeon General’s Report on Addiction: What does it mean?

November 17, 2016 | Addictions | Comments

Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO

Addiction is one of the nation’s most pressing health concerns. One in seven Americans experience an addiction in their lifetime, and even more will misuse substances. Addiction is a chronic disease that puts a person at risk for other illnesses including HIV, cancer and heart disease. And, addiction costs our nation $442 billion annually in […]

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Future Uncertain for ACA, Medicaid Under New Administration and Congress

November 17, 2016 | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The Republican sweep of the White House and both chambers of Congress in last week’s election means big changes could be coming to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. President-Elect Donald Trump and GOP Congressional leaders ran on a platform to “repeal and replace” the ACA and plans to rein in spending for Medicaid. Both proposals could have a potentially devastating effects for both consumers and providers.

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HHS Releases Details on New Medication Assisted Treatment Prescribers

November 17, 2016 | Addictions | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that starting in February 2017 nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be able to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction. This policy change, authorized by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), will create greater access to medication-assisted treatment by increasing the number of available prescribers across the country.

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Advocacy in 2017: Bring a Friend and Let’s Go to Work

November 17, 2016 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

In any post-election autopsy or forecast for the future, there is inevitably a ranking of the most powerful people in the room. As the political world prepares itself for a new presidential administration and Congress, the National Council wanted to share its list of the most powerful person in politics in 2017: YOU!

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White House Task Force Releases Parity Recommendations

November 3, 2016 | Parity | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Vice President, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the White House Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force released its recommendations for improving the implementation of the federal parity law. The Task Force report details the Obama Administration’s parity implementation activities undertaken throughout the last eight years, outlines new resources available as of today, and offers a number of recommendations for future action.

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