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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.

House Subcommittee Examines Slate of SUD Legislation

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Shelley Starkey

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on “Combating an Epidemic: Legislation to Help Patients with Substance Use Disorders.” The Subcommittee heard from a slate of panelists including officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as professionals from various health providers and national advocacy organizations. The hearing also included discussion of a slate of 14 bills covering a broad range of approaches to address the addiction crisis in America.

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Experts Weigh in on Continued Efforts to Address Opioid Epidemic

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Shelley Starkey

On Wednesday, The Hill convened policymakers and medical experts to discuss steps to expand access to treatment and help those living with opioid addiction begin the journey toward long-term recovery. During a conversation with Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons praised the National Council for its work to bridge the gap between mental health and addiction treatment and highlighted the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/ H.R. 1767) as a legislative effort to address these issues.

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ONDCP Releases 2020 National Drug Control Strategy and Rural Toolkit

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) recently released its annual report on the National Drug Control Strategy as well as a new toolkit to assist rural communities in responding to the addiction crisis. The 2020 National Strategy prioritizes increasing access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and supporting those in recovery with peer services, access to housing, training, education, and employment.

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GAO Report Highlights Barriers to MAT Access in Medicaid

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Shelley Starkey

Although Medicaid is one of the largest sources of coverage for individuals receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT), an evidence-based best practice for treating opioid use disorder (OUD), there remain some roadblocks for patients to access the life-saving treatment. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week highlighting state and federal policy barriers for Medicaid enrollees to access MAT. GAO also included recommendations that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensure that states comply with federal requirements to cover MAT medications.

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House Committee Convenes Panel on State Efforts to Address the Opioid Crisis

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on how states have used federal funds to address the opioid epidemic. Representatives from five state departments of health spoke on successes through increased Medication-Assisted Treatment, Medicaid expansion, and interventions for justice-involved populations, as well as the critical need for further financial investment, prevention […]

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What to Expect for Behavioral Health in 2020

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Shelley Starkey

From funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics to state Medicaid waivers, 2020 is sure to be a whirlwind for behavioral health and for the health care system at large. While Congress remains split down party lines with Democratic control of the House and Republican control of the Senate, time will tell if any large changes will happen during this election year. Here is a preview of what is likely ahead in health policy in the first year of the new decade.

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Join the Unite for Mental Health: New Hampshire Town Hall on 12/16

December 12, 2019 | Addictions | Mental Health | Comments
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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

On Monday December 16th at 6:30pm ET the Unite for Mental Health: New Hampshire Town Hall will kick off at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. Presidential candidates Governor Weld and Congressman Walsh will share their mental health plans with attendees and answer audience questions. 2X Olympian and Ironman triathlete Sarah True will share her mental health story and Judge Steve Leifman will screen a trailer from his upcoming documentary and discuss his successes. More tickets were just released, and you can watch via Facebook Live.

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National Council Staff Presents at Congressional Briefing on Addiction

November 21, 2019 | Addictions | Comments
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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

On Wednesday, Tom Hill, Vice President of Practice Improvement at the National Council, spoke at a congressional briefing on federal and state financing for recovery support services. The briefing, which was hosted by Young People in Recovery, highlighted various funding streams for addiction services, including State Opioid Response (SOR) grants, transferrable tax credits, and Section 1115 Demonstration Waivers.

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House Bill Would Increase Provider Education for MAT

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Shelley Starkey

Policy Associate

The Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act (H.R. 4974) would standardize substance use disorder (SUD) training for providers that prescribe Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) scheduled medications, such as those used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The bipartisan bill, introduced in the House last week, would help to increase access to high-quality care for individuals living […]

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DEA Misses Deadline for Teleprescribing Special Registration

October 31, 2019 | Addictions | Telehealth | Comments
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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officially missed its deadline to submit its plans to Congress on how it will execute a special registration process that would allow providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. The directive from Congress was passed in last year’s SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and was aimed at combatting the opioid crisis by increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). DEA was given one year from the signing of that law to create and release its plan to initiate this special registration process. While the agency admits it missed the deadline, no plans have yet been announced to comply with the law and finalize the special registration process.

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Senate Health Appropriations Language Released

September 20, 2019 | Addictions | Federal Budget | Mental Health | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

With just over one week left until the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations work is due to avoid a government shutdown, the Senate is still working to finalize its funding bills. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee put a pause on their Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending discussions over partisan disputes about what should and should not be included in the bill. Although the Committee has yet to discuss or vote on the bill, its draft text and report were publicly posted on Tuesday, a move that is out of the norm until after a full Committee markup.

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SAMHSA Proposes Changes to Part 2 SUD Privacy Rules

August 29, 2019 | Addictions | Privacy & HIPAA | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a proposed rule that would change the way substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records are shared under 42 CFR Part 2. Although the Trump administration does not have the authority to fully align 42 CFR Part 2 with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the administration stated that its proposal aims to “facilitate better coordination of care for substance use disorders, which will also enhance care for opioid use disorder,” according to an official fact sheet on the proposal. Meanwhile, critics expressed concern that the changes to the rule would undermine patient confidentiality and willingness to seek treatment. SAMHSA is accepting public comments on these proposed changes until October 24, 2019.

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New Bill Expands Access to Telehealth for Mental Illness, Substance Use Disorder

August 8, 2019 | Addictions | Telehealth | Comments
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Michael Petruzzelli

Director, Federal Policy and Advocacy

New legislation introduced in Congress this week would expand access to telemedicine for mental health and substance use disorder treatment. The Improving Access to Remote Behavioral Health Treatment Act of 2019 (S. 2244/H.R. 4131) would amend regulations for the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 and specifically name community mental health centers and addiction treatment centers as eligible sites to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine.

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House Passes Short-Term CCBHC Extension, Bill Now Heads to White House

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Michael Petruzzelli

Director, Federal Policy and Advocacy

On Tuesday, the House approved a short-term extension of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration in Medicaid. The legislation now heads to the White House for President Trump’s review and signature. The bill would extend the program until Friday, September 13, 2019. This extension is yet another legislative victory for the CCBHC program and one on which we will look to build momentum for a long-term extension and expansion in the fall. The National Council thanks Congress and the countless advocates whose work has expanded access to high-quality, community-based treatment through the CCBHC program.

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National Council Supports the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act

August 1, 2019 | Addictions | Take Action | Comments
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Rebecca Farley David, VP, Policy & Advocacy

Sara Howe, CEO, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health

The National Council for Behavioral Health Board of Directors has determined to support the bipartisan Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act (H.R. 2482), which would expand access to medication-assisted treatment, the “gold standard” of addiction treatment when prescribed in conjunction with regular counseling. The National Council thanks the bill authors Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ted Budd (R-NC), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Mike Turner (R-OH) for their work on this critical issue.

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New Legislation Introduced to Increase MAT Access in Correctional Facilities

July 25, 2019 | Addictions | Justice | Comments
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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

More than 50 percent of incarcerated individuals in the U.S. meet criteria for substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD). Last month, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to increase treatment for OUD among incarcerated individuals and address the issue that inmates are 40 times more likely to die from a fatal opioid overdose in the first two weeks following release. The Community Re-Entry through Addiction Treatment to Enhance (CREATE) Opportunities Act (S. 1983) would establish a grant program to provide more medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options while incarcerated and continued access to care upon release.

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Congressional Roundtable Addresses Increasing Threat Within Opioid Epidemic

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Malka Berro

Policy Associate

On Tuesday, the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force held a roundtable discussion on an increasing threat within the opioid epidemic: fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Synthetic opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, causing over 28,000 deaths in 2017. The roundtable meeting focused on expanding the behavioral health workforce, new criminal justice interventions, innovative pharmacological treatments, and recently proposed legislation.

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Medicaid Myths: Debunking Common Misconceptions of the Medicaid Program

July 18, 2019 | Addictions | Medicaid | Mental Health | Comments
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Ranjani Sudarsan

Intern, Policy and Practice Improvement

Last week, the Partnership for Medicaid, a nonpartisan advocacy coalition including the National Council, hosted a congressional staff briefing to discuss and unravel some of the most common misconceptions about the Medicaid program and its beneficiaries. The briefing focused specifically on individuals who receive health care via Medicaid and its impact on their lives. The diverse panel of speakers provided an overview of how millions of Americans benefit from the Medicaid program and how Medicaid expansion has led to increases in coverage, access to care and improved health outcomes for beneficiaries.

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Bipartisan House Bill Would Support College Students Living with Addiction

July 11, 2019 | Addictions | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

The Campus Prevention and Recovery Services for Students Act of 2019 (H.R. 3591), introduced late last month, would help institutions of higher education support students experiencing substance use disorder (SUD). The bill aims to implement evidence-based programs, promote collaboration between schools and state treatment agencies, and encourage integration between primary care, mental health and SUD services in campus-based health centers. The National Council applauds Representatives David Trone (D-MD), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Chris Pappas (D-NH), John Joyce (R-PA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), and Michael Guest (R-MS) for their leadership on this issue.

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New Opioid Crisis Response Bill Introduced in Both Chambers

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Shelley Starkey

This week, a group of 95 Democrats in the House and Senate re-introduced a bill that would invest $100 billion in federal funds over ten years to better address the opioid overdose epidemic, which took almost 48,000 American lives in 2017. The Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act (S. 1365/H.R. 2569) includes provisions to strengthen standards for recovery residences, establish new grant programs to help individuals living with addictions find or maintain employment, and incentivize states to cover the full range of addiction services in their Medicaid programs. The National Council thanks the CARE Act’s sponsors for their work to provide desperately needed resources that will expand addiction treatment capacity nationwide.

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