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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.

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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White House Releases More Details on National Drug Control Strategy

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Shelley Starkey

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, released its Performance Reporting System last week, which established nine measurable goals and objectives meant to be achieved by 2022. The goals include reducing the number of drug overdose deaths, increasing prescriber education on best practices and clinical guidelines, and expanding access to evidence-based addiction treatment options.

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Legislation Eliminating Buprenorphine Waivers Introduced in House

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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

A bipartisan piece of legislation has been introduced in the House that would remove restrictions on health providers to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication proven effective in treating opioid use disorder. The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (H.R.2482) would eliminate the requirement for medical providers to obtain a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to treat opioid use disorder with buprenorphine or any other Schedule III, IV or V drug. Currently, practitioners must apply for the waiver in order to prescribe buprenorphine specifically to treat addiction, even though they may be able to prescribe the medication for other reasons.

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House Panel Approves FY 20 Health Funding Levels

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Tuesday, the appropriations subcommittee that covers health care programs approved funding levels for federal health spending for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. As expected, the bill largely ignores proposed cuts from President Trump’s budget and assumes that Congress will reach a deal to avoid upcoming budget caps. As currently written, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill would prioritize efforts to address the opioid crisis and increase medical research.

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National Council Comments on Proposed Recovery Housing Guidelines

April 18, 2019 | Addictions | Housing | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, 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
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Shelley Starkey

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

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Stephanie Pellitt

, 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

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Shelley Starkey

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
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Stephanie Pellitt

, 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

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Stephanie Pellitt

, 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

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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
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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

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Stephanie Pellitt

, 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

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Shelley Starkey

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

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Stephanie Pellitt

, 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

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Stephanie Pellitt

, 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

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Shelley Starkey

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
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Shelley Starkey

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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