House Subcommittee Assesses New Opioid Legislation
Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held its second in a series of three hearings to discuss legislative solutions to address the ongoing opioid crisis. The hearing, entitled “Combating the Opioid Crisis: Prevention and Public Health Solutions,” took place over two days, covered 25 bills, and consisted of four panels of witnesses including: federal agency heads, individuals in recovery and opioid treatment experts. The hearing demonstrates lawmakers continued interest in taking additional steps this year to address the opioid crisis — beyond the provisions included in the 2018 omnibus spending bill.
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Marketplace Stabilization Package Stalls Amid Rising Premiums
After seven months of bipartisan negotiation, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee leaders abandoned efforts to stabilize the individual insurance market for this year. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) had been working since the fall on legislation to restore cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers – key payments that lower the cost of health insurance on the individual market.
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Congress Releases Massive Omnibus Spending Bill, Includes Billions in New Behavioral Health Funding
On Wednesday evening, Congressional leaders unveiled a massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that would set government funding through Sep. 30, 2018. As currently written, the 2018 omnibus boosts federal health spending by $10.1 billion, providing increases for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more. Importantly, about $4 billion of the additional funding is specifically dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis. The omnibus must pass the House and Senate, then be signed by President Trump by midnight on Friday — when the government’s current funding lapses — to avoid a government shutdown.
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President Trump Announces Opioid Crisis Response Plan
On Monday, President Trump unveiled his plan to put a stop to the opioid epidemic that claims thousands of American lives every year. The President’s plan addresses multiple contributing factors including: reducing over-prescribing of opioid pain killers, cutting off illicit drug supplies, improving access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services, and ramping up prevention efforts. It is unclear whether Congress will appropriate funding for these initiatives, as both chambers are currently considering their own strategies.
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Senators Advocate for Funding to Combat Opioid Overdose Among American Indian Population
Federal and state officials testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last week to discuss solutions to combat the high prevalence of opioid use and overdose among American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN). The panelists shared the latest statistics for opioid use and overdose among this population and advocated for additional funding for key government programs that expand treatment and recovery services.
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Advocacy Coalition Promotes Therapeutic Family Care on Capitol Hill
Last week, a coalition of family and foster care organizations hosted a congressional staff briefing advocating for the inclusion of Therapeutic Family Care (TFC) as a reimbursable service through Medicaid nationwide. TFC provides standardized care in a community-based setting for children who would instead be treated in group homes or institutionalized care settings. TFC is currently only reimbursable as a distinct Medicaid service via a demonstration program in Utah, though many states offer access to TFC via the rehabilitation option in Medicaid.
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Budget Update: FY2018 Budget Not Finalized Yet, Deadline Looms
As the March 23rd government funding deadline inches closer, members of the House and Senate continue their slow move toward a bipartisan agreement on spending levels for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018. At the time of this writing, text of the spending bill is not expected until next week and lawmakers are likely to leave town for the weekend. Congress has until March 23rd to approve a budget deal to avert another government shutdown.
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Capitol Hill Briefing Highlights Adding MFTs and Counselors to Medicare
On Thursday, the National Council for Behavioral Health, on behalf of the Medicare Access Coalition, hosted two congressional staff briefings on improving Medicare to better serve seniors with mental illness. The briefing featured community mental health professionals from Peak Wellness Center, who shared the challenges they face in finding Medicare-eligible providers to treat their older adult clients. The event highlighted pending bipartisan legislation that would expand the mental health workforce by adding marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and licensed professional counselors (LPCs) to the Medicare program.
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Trump Announces More Action on Opioids at Summit
Last Thursday, the White House held an Opioid Summit to discuss the Administration’s strategy for tackling the ongoing opioid crisis, which claimed more than 42,000 American lives and accounted for roughly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016. During his remarks, President Trump said, “The Administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong.” There was limited discussion of specific proposals, but it is expected the White House may bolster law enforcement agencies to carry out opioid-related activities.
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National Council Hosts Integration Briefing on Capitol Hill
The National Council for Behavioral Health hosted a congressional staff briefing on Wednesday highlighting government programs and initiatives that promote the integration of primary and behavioral health care. The panel featured four grantees from the Promoting Integration of Primary and Behavioral Health Care grant program, two of whom are also participants in the Medicaid Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic demonstration program.
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House Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Epidemic Response
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee convened a hearing on potential solutions to address the opioid epidemic on Wednesday. The hearing featured testimony from National Council member, Richard Nance, who presented recommendations for improving access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), the gold standard of opioid addiction treatment, via telemedicine. The hearing was the first of three hearings devoted to crafting a broad legislative package to curb the use of prescription and illicit opioids.
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Eight Opioid Bills and CARA 2.0 Slated for Consideration in Congress
In the midst of an ongoing epidemic of prescription and illicit opioid addiction, which largely drove the more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016, Congress is eagerly seeking solutions. Both the House and the Senate introduced a flurry of bills aimed at combating the opioid epidemic from many angles. The Senate is working on follow-up legislation to the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), while the House is considering a package of eight opioid-focused bills.
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