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Archive: Addictions

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.

National Council Comments on Proposed Recovery Housing Guidelines

April 18, 2019 | Addictions | Housing | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the National Council provided official comments to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the agency’s proposed Recovery Housing Guidelines. The guidelines are the result of requirements included in the SUPPORT Act of 2018, a wide-ranging opioid package, for the federal government to identify and disseminate best practices for operating recovery housing. While the guidance is intended to help states increase the availability of quality recovery housing, the National Council raised numerous concerns that the guidance would instead reduce access to recovery housing and undermine existing recovery housing standards and certification programs.

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Lawmakers Reintroduce 42 CFR Part 2 Overhaul

April 11, 2019 | Addictions | Privacy & HIPAA | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced a bill in both the House and the Senate that would amend federal laws related to the sharing of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records. The bills (S. 1012/H.R. 2062) would change 42 CFR Part 2, the section of the federal code related to this issue, to align it with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Identical bills have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress but have subsequently failed to pass due to opposition from privacy advocacy groups and a handful of legislators.

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Congressional Briefing Urges Congress to Empower Addiction Workforce

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Addiction workforce advocates presented on the Hill this week as part of a congressional staff briefing exploring opportunities for Congress to better equip front-line providers to prevent and treat opioid and other addictions. The hearing featured testimony from Mary-Catherine Bohan, representing a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) from New Jersey, who shared how the CCBHC model is transforming her clinic’s ability to hire addiction treatment professionals and serve more patients.

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White House ONDCP Releases First National Strategy under Trump

Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the White House responsible for coordinating the nation’s response to drug-related issues such as the opioid overdose epidemic, last week released its first National Drug Control Strategy since President Trump took office. The strategy calls on federal agencies to focus their efforts on preventing individuals from initiating use of illicit drugs, providing adequate evidence-based treatment for individuals living with addiction, and reducing the availability of illicit drugs via law enforcement activities.

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HRSA Releases Information About SUD Workforce Program

January 3, 2019 | Addictions | Workforce | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently accepting clinician applications for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program. The program offers up to $75,000 in student loan repayment for clinicians who work at least three years providing substance use treatment at an approved site. Applicants that have a DATA-2000 waiver to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder, work in an opioid treatment program or are licensed or certified in substance use interventions, will receive priority. Applications will be accepted on or before February 21, 2019.

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CCBHC Expiration Presents “A Looming Crisis” for Addiction Care

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Since launching in mid-2017, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) have dramatically improved access to community-based addiction care in the eight states where they operate, particularly opioid addiction services. CCBHCs have hired hundreds of new addiction-focused clinicians, expanded medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other addiction services, and reduced patient wait times. However, with the CCBHC program set to end in mid-2019, access to lifesaving treatment could be lost. A new National Council report shows that the end of the CCBHC demonstration would result in massive program closures, staff layoffs and reduced addiction treatment access for patients. The National Council is calling on Congress to act quickly to extend the life of this critical program.

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Surgeon General, SAMHSA Release Updated Report on Challenges Fighting Opioid Epidemic

Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the jointly developed Spotlight on Opioids, aiming to provide an update on opioid use and amplify discussion about substance use disorders (SUD) generally. In a statement announcing the report, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar expressed support for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), while the Surgeon General and the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, called out several challenges impacting efforts to curb the crisis, including persistent societal stigma, workforce shortages and a lack of workforce supports.

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SAMHSA Releases National Survey on Drug Use and Health

September 20, 2018 | Addictions | Data | Mental Health | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), providing the nation with a snapshot of the ongoing opioid epidemic and mental health update across the country. The report found that 1 in 12 American adults (18.7 million) had a substance use disorder (SUD) and that 1 in 5 (46.6 million) had a mental illness. More than 8.5 million, though, were found to have both a SUD and mental illness.

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Senate Reaches Opioid Deal, Vote Delayed

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Senate leaders have finalized a sweeping legislative package aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic, clearing the way for a Senate vote next week. The Senate had hoped to vote on the measure on Thursday, but inclement weather from Hurricane Florence caused the vote to be cancelled. The bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act (S. 2680) comprises more than 70 bills reported out of five Senate committees and touches on many elements of the epidemic. The bill’s provisions support many National Council priorities including expanding access to addiction treatment, strengthening the addiction treatment workforce, improving behavioral health information technology and more.

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House Passes Final Opioid Package

Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

After months of work on the topic, the House of Representatives last Friday passed a wide-ranging package of legislation aimed at addressing various facets of the opioid crisis. The bipartisan Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act (H.R. 6) combines 58 individual previously-passed bills that focus on topics ranging from expanding access to opioid addiction treatment to encouraging the adoption of alternative forms of pain management and more. Attention now turns to the Senate as legislators are building their own version of an opioid package, which will need to be reconciled with the House version before being signed into law by the president.

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SAMHSA Releases $1 Billion in Opioid Grant Applications

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congress’ investment of $1 billion 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). This funding was allocated in the recent omnibus budget agreement and is in addition to the $500 million provided in the Opioid State Targeted Response (Opioid STR) grants for FY 2018. State agencies will have until August 13th 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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National Loan Forgiveness Program Expands to Include SUD Sites

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently accepting provider applications to become a National Health Service Corps (NHSC)-approved site. New this year, the NHSC has added addiction treatment facilities to the list of eligible sites for loan forgiveness, providing an incentive for professionals to seek jobs at these facilities. This move represents a change to the NHSC program that the National Council has been advocating for on behalf of its members. The NHSC provides loan forgiveness to over 10,000 eligible health care professionals across the country in exchange for their service in underserved communities. 

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House Sends More Opioid Bills to the Senate

Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

The House of Representatives this week picked up where it left off in its efforts to advance legislation to address the opioid crisis. The latest House-passed bills will be combined with those that were passed last week to create a comprehensive package for the Senate to consider. Bills that advanced this week include some controversial measures to loosen the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) rule and 42 CFR Part 2, which governs the privacy of substance use treatment records. Other measures that passed related to the expansion of parity protection, and prevention, treatment, and recovery for opioid use disorders.

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SAMHSA Announces Grant Opportunity for Medication-Assisted Treatment

June 7, 2018 | Addictions | Federal Budget | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a funding opportunity for nonprofit organizations, including community mental health and addiction treatment providers, in certain states and tribal communities to improve access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), a highly effective, evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Eligible organizations wishing to compete for up to almost $525,000 per year must submit their applications by July 9th.

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House Committee Sends Opioid Package to House Floor

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee reviewed remaining opioid legislation to be included in a large package aimed at addressing the opioid crisis, an effort which began last week in the full Committee. The Committee approved 32 bills, a week after approving another 25 opioid measures, bringing the total up to 57. Bills that advanced this week include provisions to loosen both the Institution for Mental Disease (IMD) rule on residential substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and privacy rules governing SUD treatment records, promote best practices for recovery housing and to ensure mental health and SUD parity in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

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House Committee Continues Work on Opioid Package

Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its first of two hearings to consider a large package of legislation aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. The full Committee approved 25 of the 56 bills that had advanced from the Health Subcommittee, and is slated to review the remaining legislation next week with the hopes of advancing a comprehensive package to the House floor by Memorial Day. Bills that advanced this week included efforts to expand: telemedicine prescribing for medication-assisted treatment, student loan forgiveness for addiction treatment professionals and use of electronic health records by behavioral health providers.

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National Council Releases First-Ever Recovery Housing Guide for States

April 27, 2018 | Addictions | Comments

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Monday, April 23, the National Council for Behavioral Health published the first-ever policy guide for expanding quality recovery housing entitled Building Recovery: State Policy Guide for Supporting Recovery Housing. It calls on states to adopt recovery housing quality standards, establish a certification program and support recovery residences as they work to meet nationally-recognized standards. In the guide, the National Council recommends concrete policies and practices that policymakers can enact to strengthen the road to recovery from addiction.

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President Trump Announces Opioid Crisis Response Plan

Shelley Starkey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator

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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House Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Epidemic Response

Stephanie Pasternak

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

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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Medicaid Work Requirements to be Enacted in Indiana

February 8, 2018 | Addictions | Medicaid | Waivers/SPAs | Comments

Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

Indiana is now the second state to receive approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a waiver request that imposes work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries to maintain coverage. Indiana’s Section 1115 waiver also enacts a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program which will include coverage for residential treatment in Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) and will increase premiums for beneficiaries who use tobacco and are not engaged in tobacco cessation activities. The National Council for Behavioral Health strongly opposes work requirements and any attempts to restrict access to needed behavioral health services.

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